A hard instrument goes soft: the implications of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s current trajectory

Harrop, Stuart R and Pritchard, Diana J (2011) A hard instrument goes soft: the implications of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s current trajectory. Global Environmental Change, 21 (2). pp. 474-480. ISSN 0959-3780

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The relentless loss of biological diversity, which will have a direct impact on human society and degrade ecosystem buffers against the extremes of climate perturbation, requires a strong global governance response. Of the numerous international legal instruments relating to the protection of nature, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is the most comprehensive. This paper examines its current emphasis on global biodiversity targets to extend our understanding of its trajectory, and its evolving nature as an instrument of global governance. We review CBD documents, and early examinations of its emergent character, in the context of the distinction between hard and soft law approaches, and combine analysis on the issue of targets from the literature on development, climate change and conservation biology. We emphasise that the CBD, created as a hard law instrument with a framework character, had the clear facility to develop subsidiary hard law instruments in the form of protocols but has not significantly followed this route. We document how its approach – which has been typically ‘soft’, as exemplified by its focus on global biodiversity targets which are not backed up by obligations – suggests it operates de facto as policy rather than an instrument requiring state action. The adoption of global targets has parallels with other initiatives within global governance and may influence international political agendas, but they have failed to provide practical instruments for national implementation. Conditions may now exist for the CBD to develop focused hard legal instruments in specific areas of its wide remit that support realistic targets.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Convention on Biological Diversity Framework convention Soft law Hard law Targets Nagoya Biodiversity Summit
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Law
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography > GF075 Human influences on the environment
H Social Sciences > HC Economic history and conditions > HC0079 Special topics, A-Z > HC0079.E5 Environmental policy and economic development. Sustainable development Including environmental economics
K Law
K Law > KZA Law of the Sea
Q Science > QP Physiology > QP0001 General Including influence of the environment
T Technology > TD Environmental technology. Sanitary engineering > TD0878 Special types of environment Including soil pollution, air pollution, noise pollution
Depositing User: Stuart Harrop
Date Deposited: 21 May 2013 13:12
Last Modified: 21 May 2013 13:12
URI: http://srodev.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/44804
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