Source: Pixabay


Soil Protection through International Environmental Law

Lorenz Strauch - Freie Universität Berlin, Prof. C. Calliess

The natural environment (as well as its destruction) knows no man-made boundaries. This statement is as much a platitude as it is true and relevant. Looking at the ‘classic‘ global environmental problems of our time (keyword: ’Anthropocene‘), amongst them especially climate change and biodiversity loss, their cross-spatial dimensions become quite obvious. Hence, international efforts to organise joint countermeasures have made comparatively good progress in these areas—at least on paper. In contrast, the protection of immobile natural bodies and specific environmental areas is clearly underdeveloped at the supra-state level. One reason for this is their usual (rather short-sighted) classification as a purely local matter due to the mere fact that they are bound to a particular location. Juridically, however, their main problem lies in the fundamental principle of (territorial) sovereignty, according to which the individual state has both exclusive power of disposal over its ‘own‘ environment and legal autonomy in external relations. Soil is the most visual example of this principle, because soil is not only situated within a certain state, but it rather provides its physical foundation thus being the very embodiment of territoriality. Especially in the context of national economy, soil is considered a sacrosanct state domain, as many soil functions are attributed a high monetary value. From an environmental law perspective, however, the linkage between the state and soil presents various problems. This dissertation project therefore investigates the question of whether an international soil protection regime is necessary for ecological and structural reasons, on the one hand, and justified by the spatial scale, on the other hand. Against the backdrop of the deficiencies of binding soil protection standards under current international environmental law, possibilities and limits de lege ferenda are then explored, mainly in the light of the aforementioned principle of sovereignty in its territorial manifestations.

The European Union’s responsibility to regulate extraterritorial investments in agricultural land for environmental conservation purposes

Large-scale transboundary investments in agricultural land are globally on the rise. This development increasingly encroaches on human rights and the environment, especially in low-income countries. Investors gain control over large areas of farmland through purchase or long-term lease. This ensures a.e. the production of food and access to water and other resources. In addition, the land serves as object for investment and speculation. This approach is critically being referred to as ‘land grabbing’, as local land users often face displacement or lose access to land and resources. Moreover, the investment processes frequently result in massive environmental destruction as small-scale agriculture is replaced by large agri-businesses. Adverse effects are amplified by the fact that investments in agricultural land are generally considered necessary to fight hunger and poverty and to ensure food security for the growing world population. Accordingly, direct investments in agricultural land need to be controlled, so the rights of local land users are safeguarded and the environment is protected.
Currently, transboundary investments in agricultural land are not sufficiently regulated. National law in the host countries is not effectively implemented, transnational regulatory approaches are only just emerging and comprehensive regulations on the part of the home states of investors are missing. As a result, the people and the environment in investment areas are left mostly without legal protection.
The EU can and should regulate foreign direct investments of its economic agents to prevent land grabbing in non-EU countries. The objective of my study is to provide a normative justification why the EU should take responsibility for the extraterritorial effects of large-scale investments in agricultural land. It will be further analysed, whether an EU regulation would be in conformity with international and EU primary law how it should be designed with regards to content, and which entities it should.