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Rob Fowler: Sustainability And The Law

  • BRADLEY FORUM, BOB HAWKE PRIME MINISTERIAL CENTRE, UNI SA 55 North Terrace Adelaide Australia (map)



Presented by The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, University of SA and Wakefield Futures Group


There is mounting evidence that a transition to sustainability is required in the coming decades if we are to avoid some form of significant collapse on a global scale. This transition will require multiple responses across different disciplines and stakeholders and must encompass all three “pillars” of sustainability (economic, social and environmental). This presentation will consider the role of law as an instrument to support and facilitate this transition, acknowledging at the same time that law alone cannot deliver it. A starting point could be the major reform of two existing areas of law: environmental law and laws endorsing various principles of sustainable development, each of which has evolved rapidly in recent decades. However, whilst such reform is highly desirable, this alone will be unlikely to provide adequate support for the required transition.  

In addition, a new body of innovative laws that focuses specifically on the goal of sustainability is needed (“sustainability laws”). This topic is relatively uncharted territory. A starting point could be an examination of how innovative laws might address the underlying drivers of collapse (such as excessive consumption, population and economic growth). For example, a radical reform of resource allocation laws might allow for extraction only where it is possible to replace each resource (if renewable) or to reuse or recycle it (if non-renewable). At the international level, the idea that sovereignty includes the right to exploit natural resources may need to be replaced by an over-riding duty upon nations to conserve and protect them.

This event, presented by Professor Rob Fowler, is part of a series exploring sustainable futures.

Presented by The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, University of SA and Wakefield Futures Group