Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Diffusion of constitutional environmental rights

Here's a paper that goes to the important historical question of how and why environmental legal norms are transplanted, diffused, received, or what have you, between legal systems.

Constitutional Environmental Protection in 1980
Constitutional Environmental Protection in 2010
(figures from the article)

Jerg Gutmann, Sina Imhof, and Stefan Voigt have posted "Are You Green Yet? On the Diffusion of Constitutionally Protected Environmental Rights". The abstract explains:
Over the last couple of decades, ever more countries have integrated environmental rights into their constitutions. Drawing on discrete time survival analysis techniques, this paper identifies the determinants of the introduction of such rights. It turns out that a country’s level of democracy, its legal tradition, the sustainability of its tourism sector, and the implementation of major changes to the constitution are statistically significant predictors of an entrenchment of environmental rights in national constitutions. Other plausible explanations can be discarded. Income, affectedness by extreme weather events, citizens’ initiatives, dependence on fossil fuels or agriculture, and stated ecofriendly attitudes or behavior are not associated with a higher propensity for constitutional environmental protection. However, we find robust evidence for a diffusion of constitutional environmental rights among spatially proximate countries.


  1. What a wonderful study! A good deal of its utility lies in its ability to inspire further inquiry. For example, these scholars find sustainability of the tourism sector to be a key determinant of CEP. This indicator, presented here as a static characteristic, is actually the product of a potentially important history of interaction between human and non-human nature as mediated by geo-political forces.

    The authors accurately claim that understanding the conditions that contribute to CEP will be important in analyzing its effects on the quality of the physical environment. I would add that an understanding of the historical relationships between humans and their environments that result in these determining factors would also yield a deeper understanding of exactly how these conditions contribute to CEP, and therefore be equally essential to understanding the consequences of CEP.

    1. Good point. Here's an opportunity for environmental history to contribute to understanding of the law in ways that social science alone may not be able to do.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. My name is Josh Gellers and I am a PhD candidate in Political Science writing my dissertation on the global emergence of constitutional environmental rights. I have previously published an article on whether diffusion explains the trend and I found that it actually has a statistically significant negative effect on the likelihood of adoption. In addition, I have conducted an analysis similar to that undertaken by Gutmann et al in which I use international relations theory to explain the phenomenon. If you are interested, you can download my paper on SSRN: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2103960. I also am in the process of developing a website which will provide global data on constitutional environmental rights: www.envirorightsmap.org. I hope you find these resources useful.