‘Asian Judges Network on Environment’ Launched to Focus on Natural Capital, Environment LawsCatch of the Week
Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Takehiko Nakao today formally launched the Asian Judges Network on Environment (AJNE) at the ADB headquarters in Manila, Philippines, creating a platform to generate knowledge on environment challenges among judiciaries and the legal community in Asia and the Pacific.
The AJNE was launched on the opening day of the Second Asian Judges Symposium on Environment being held 3–5 December at the ADB headquarters. The symposium aims to bring together senior judges, environment ministry officials, prosecutors, legal professionals, and civil society participants to share (i) updates on judicial innovations relevant to the environment, (ii) information on the concept of “natural capital,” (iii) laws and law enforcement challenges in deciding cases affecting natural capital, and (iv) how AJNE can promote a wider understanding of natural capital in the judiciary.
President Nakao stressed ADB’s commitment to natural capital and the rule of law, citing as an example the bank’s support for ecosystem conservation in the Coral Triangle region and the Greater Mekong Subregion Biodiversity Conservation Corridors Initiative.
In her opening remarks, Supreme Court of the Philippines Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno thanked attendees and all stakeholders for creating AJNE as a platform to discuss environment jurisprudence.
“The fulfilment of (AJNE’s) task is important for countries that are most vulnerable, our countries in the Asia and Pacific region,” she said. “We can share knowledge and solutions on reparation of environmental violators, and laws should be clearly interpreted to protect our coastal and marine resources, mangroves, and the exploitation of our natural capital.”
Sereno also advocated for the inclusion of the concept of natural capital as a measure of national wealth.
“I am reminded of the Gross National Happiness index being promoted in some countries,” she said. “What really constitutes wealth? Natural capital should also be a measure of a nation’s wealth. This is where legal philosophers must come in.”
Natural capital is the stock of natural assets and resources such as oceans, mangroves, and tropical forests that provide ecosystem services such as food, water, and timber. It is a way of understanding nature as a natural capital that is essential to human life and lies at the foundation of the economy. However, while ecologists view the economy as a subset of the environment, some economists view the environment as a subset of the economy. Disputes and conflicts over natural resources—such as land, water, minerals, flora, and fauna—often end up as lawsuits in courts, and these are fundamental tensions between economic development and environmental protection.
The 3–day Second Asian Judges Symposium on Environment seeks to build upon and consolidate past and ongoing ADB work under its Environment Law, Justice, and Development Program. Papers submitted during the symposium will be compiled and edited as a volume for publication, and the symposium will also serve as a venue for the consideration and possible adoption of an AJNE Statement on Environmental Justice.
The symposium partners are ADB, the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Supreme Court of the Philippines, and the United States Agency for International Development.
Story and photos by CTKNetwork.org