An Economic Analysis of International Environmental Rights

Forthcoming, International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics

19 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2019 Last revised: 12 Jul 2021

See all articles by Jesse L Reynolds

Jesse L Reynolds

University of California, Los Angeles School of Law; Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law, Utrecht University School of Law

Date Written: October 18, 2019

Abstract

This article offers a descriptive and normative economic analysis of international environmental rights. States, sovereignty, international negotiations, and international law resemble legal persons, property, the market, and private law, respectively. Just as the initial entitlement of persons’ property rights is important to increasing welfare when transaction costs are significant, so too is that of states’ sovereignty rights, including those regarding the environment. What is the initial entitlement of these rights? Is this relatively efficient? How are these rights protected? The article considers three possible initial entitlements. First, states’ right to cause transboundary environmental harm and, second, their right to be free therefrom are each rejected due to weak theoretical support and insufficient state practice. These initial entitlements would also be less efficient. In contrast, an initial entitlement consisting of both the prevention of transboundary harm and the equitable use of shared natural resources is supported by theory and practice. This entitlement appears relatively efficient, and the relevant legal instruments reveal an implicit underlying economic logic. These international environmental rights are generally protected by mechanisms that resemble liability.

Suggested Citation

Reynolds, Jesse L, An Economic Analysis of International Environmental Rights (October 18, 2019). Forthcoming, International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3471726 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3471726

Jesse L Reynolds (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles School of Law ( email )

385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States

Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law, Utrecht University School of Law ( email )

3508 TC Utrecht
Utrecht
Netherlands

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