This paper interrogates the vision and purpose of the nascent and developing field of ‘Earth System Law’ (ESL) with a view to asking how best to describe what ESL is and how it can contribute to scholarship on law in the ‘Anthropocene.’ Drawing on Luhmann’s autopoetic systems theory of law and complex adaptive systems theory, the paper reflects on ESL’s identity, boundaries, and role as a scholarly movement and seeks to draw out both the prospects and limits of its transformational purposes. Such questions are seen as inescapably tied to pragmatic considerations of how law and legal systems change, meaning that ESL would be best served if its scholars embraced a kind of ‘translating’ role to facilitate linkages between law and other domains in search of ways for earth systems considerations to be made relevant to law, rather than becoming vanguards of a normative legal revolution for the Anthropocene.
Michael C. Leach, 'Seeking "Systems" in Earth System Law: Boundaries, identity, and purpose in an emergent field' (2023) 15 Earth System Governance 100162
The Anthropocene thesis, albeit not an unproblematic starting point, foregrounds the inadequacy of tacitly reproduced assumptions, theoretical dispositions, and conceptual repertoires which have supported a critical mass of legal thinking and praxis. Acknowledging the disruptive effects of the ‘Anthropocene’ for law, my aim in this article is to make explicit that re-imagining law for the Anthropocene requires letting go of dominant ways of thinking and doing law, while enabling more adequate conceptions and modes of engagement to take hold. I suggest that the process of re-imagining law for the Anthropocene requires navigating a space of continuity and break that demands the legal discipline to confront questions about disciplinary identity and responsibility. Reflecting on what the process of re-imagining law might entail and how it could unfold, I propose the ‘question of possibilities’ as a leitmotif and ask: What could law become? In so doing, I map out concrete strategies and commitments which might inspire and encourage engagement with this question. These include: a practice of radical self-reflection, the cultivation of a generative outlook, the acknowledgement of legal multiplicity, and a persistent commitment to meaningful change.
Laura Mai, The ‘Question of Possibilities’ as a Leitmotif for Re-imagining Law for the ‘Anthropocene’. (2022) Global Policy, 1–11.
Since the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the focus of the United Nations climate regime has shifted from forging consensus among national governments toward animating implementation activity across multiple levels. Based on a case study of the Global Climate Action Portal—an online database designed to document nonstate actor climate commitments and implementation efforts—we trace, conceptualize, and assess how the roles of data, data infrastructures, and actor constellations have changed as a result of this shift. We argue that in the pre-COP21 negotiation phase, the United Nations Climate Secretariat strategically used the database to orchestrate and leverage nonstate actor commitments to exert pressure on intergovernmental negotiations. By contrast, in the post-COP21 implementation phase, the Secretariat, in collaboration with climate data specialists, is seeking to develop the portal to track and animate implementation activity. Given these developments, we discuss the potential and limitations of data-driven climate governance and set out avenues for future research.
Laura Mai and Joshua Philipp Elsässer, Orchestrating Global Climate Governance Through Data: The UNFCCC Secretariat and the Global Climate Action Platform. (2022) 22(4) Global Environmental Politics; pp. 151–172.