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The Challenge of Achieving Sustainable Development Through Law

September 1997

Citation: 27 ELR 10455

Issue: 9

Author: Kenneth L. Rosenbaum

Five summers ago in Rio de Janeiro, world leaders gathered at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and committed themselves to the pursuit of sustainable development.1 As part of that commitment, they signed an impressive array of agreements, including the Forest Principles, the Convention on Biodiversity, the Convention on Climate Change, and Agenda 21.

Reliance on these international legal tools suggests that world leaders hope the world can achieve sustainable development through law. In fact, law is an awkward tool for promoting sustainable development. This Dialogue explores why and offers some challenges to attorneys, judges, and lawmakers who hope to promote sustainable use of the world's resources.

Kenneth L. Rosenbaum is a private consultant on environmental and natural resource legal policy working in Washington, D.C. He holds an M.F.S. from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (1978) and a J.D. from the Northwestern School of Law at Lewis and Clark College (1982). He is a member of the Oregon bar.

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