Widener Law welcomes the world for day focused on environmental rights
Public Relations - Published: April 17, 2014
The Delaware campus welcomed environmental law experts from around the world to Polishook Hall recently for a daylong examination of global environmental constitutionalism. The concept – which is rooted in the idea that constitutions can include provisions protecting the right to clean air, clean water and a generally healthy environment – is a growing phenomenon worldwide.

“I would like to say this marks an historic event, as we go along,” Klaus Bosselmann of New Zealand said as he opened his remarks on the legitimacy of global environmental constitutionalism. “This is something that is really cutting edge. I would congratulate Widener University School of Law for leading the field.”

The April 11 symposium, presented by the Widener Law Review under the direction of Professor James R. May, was co-sponsored by the Environmental Law Center. Panels throughout the day were moderated by Widener professors who make up the center’s faculty. Speakers included academics, policymakers, scholars, students and politicians

People around the world live under constitutions that protect environmental rights in some fashion, including by committing to environmental stewardship, recognizing a basic right to a quality environment, guaranteeing a right to water or natural resources and ensuring public participation in environmental decision making. The Widener conference explored this idea, including how it has been used by other nations. The program included breakout sessions examining developments in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe.

In her opening remarks, Interim Dean Erin Daly noted constitutional recognition of environmental rights has grown to the point where it is rare for new constitutions to be adopted without provisions protecting the environment. Daly and May have co-authored the forthcoming book, “Global Environmental Constitutionalism,” being published by Cambridge University Press. She credited May for a 2006 law review article that was among the first to identify global environmental constitutionalism as an area worthy of concern. “Not just as an academic matter,” she explained, “but as a way to actually improve the lives of people, all over the globe, by giving them a way to claim a clean and health environment and even to protect nature for its own sake.”

The Widener Law Review will publish a volume of articles based on the symposium soon.