Jeffords Presents Research on Effects of Constitutional Environmental Rights Provisions

Posted on 9/17/2014 10:39:20 AM

Economics professor Christopher Jeffords presented research findings from his paper (coauthored with Lanse Minkler, University of Connecticut) “Do Constitutions Matter? The Effects of Constitutional Environmental Rights Provisions on Environmental Outcomes” at the third UNITAR-Yale Conference on Environmental Governance and Democracy, Yale University, September 5–7, 2014.

The conference was organized and sponsored by Yale, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Development Programme, and the World Resources Institute.

According to the website:

In 2012, the UN Human Rights Council adopted resolution 19/10 on human rights and the environment. The Council appointed, for a period of three years, an Independent Expert to review the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. The expert is mandated to clarify the application of human rights obligations to the environment, identify best practices in this field, and report back to the Council in 2015.

In a cross-national empirical analysis as of 2012, Jeffords and Minkler find that countries with constitutional environmental rights provisions (compared to those without) have relatively higher scores on Yale’s Environmental Performance Index (EPI). They also find a positive association between a linear index of the legal strength of the language of the environmental rights provisions and EPI.

Their empirical approach accounts for the possibility that a country which takes steps to protect the environment might also be more likely to constitutionalize environmental rights. Additional controls include: (1) gross domestic product per capita; (2) whether the country is a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights; (3) rule of law; (4) population density; and (5) exogenous geographic effects.

The results of their research thus contribute to one of the main purposes of the conference to “review the state of knowledge on the human rights-environment nexus and provide insights for consideration by the Independent Expert in preparing his report.”

Department of Economics