Programme EELF 2019 in Utrecht

Environmental Law for Transitions to Sustainability

Circular economy, climate change, water resource management and sustainable biodiversity

Academiegebouw in de lente met mensen erbij en een bloembak
University Hall (Academiegebouw) in the city center of Utrecht.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

11.30 Registration (simple lunch available) in the Janskerk, in Utrecht.

12.30 Opening Address Prof. dr. Henk Kummeling, Rector Magnificus Utrecht University

12.35 Opening Address Prof. dr. Ton Hol, Head of the Utrecht University School of Law

12.45 Plenary sessions

12.45 - 13.10

Robin Kundis Craig, James I. Farr Presidential Endowed Professor of Law, Salt Lake City:

How Do We Think About Transitioning to Sustainability in the Middle of a Transformation? Implications for Environmental and Natural Resources Law in the Anthropocene

DESCRIPTION: How do we think about transitioning to "sustainability" in the Anthropocene? The impacts of a still growing human population, increased consumption, pervasive pollution, climate change, and ocean acidification are cumulatively and synergistically pushing the planet toward transformation, as the Planetary Boundaries Project and various footprint studies have suggested. The IPCC noted in its 2014 reports that climate change alone puts sustainability goals at risk of being unachievable, although nutrient pollution and biodiversity loss may be the more immediate threats. This talk argues that we should more decisively prioritize international goals in the next decade, seeking first to significantly increase the resilience of the ecological components of social-ecological systems.

13.10 – 13.35

Frank Biermann, Professor of Global Sustainability Governance, Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University

The “Anthropocene” as a Challenge for Law

DESCRIPTION: The Anthropocene denotes a fundamental change of the relationship of humans and their environment, described by some as “the end of nature” or the “end of environmentalism”. But what does this proposed end of environmentalism imply for the traditional field of environmental law? Frank Biermann sketches several key implications that the notion of the Anthropocene brings for the legal sciences, including new challenges for democratic decision-making, the impact of long-termism, novel questions of equity, and the need to better reflect on the normative underpinnings of political decision-making, both within and beyond the legal sphere.

13.35 – 14.00

Hugo von Meijenfeldt, Dutch SDG-Coordinator, The Hague

Achieving 17 goals thanks to legal instruments

DESCRIPTION: On 25 September 2015 the government leaders of all countries have agreed upon 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved in 2030. They can only be successful in partnership (business, finance, civil society, science, and youth) and using a mix of instruments (legal, financial, technical, and communication). In this complexity it is crucial that the government is ready to use its regulatory powers in a smart way.

14.00 -14.30 Discussion

14.30 Break, coffee and tea at Janskerkhof 2-3

15.00 Parallel sessions I

17.00 End Parallel sessions

18.30 Welcome drink, Janskerk

19.00 – 22.00 Diner


Thursday, 29 August 2019                                                                         

9.00-10.45 Parallel session II, Janskerkhof 2-3

Break, coffee

11.15-13.00 Parallel session III


14.00-15.45 Parallel session IV

Coffee Break

16.15-18.00 Parallel session V

18.00 – 19.00 EELF Board Meeting, (15 persons), Stijlkamer, Janskerkhof 2-3, snacks


Friday, 30 August 2019, Janskerkhof 2-3

9.00-10.45 Parallel session VI

Break, coffee

11.15 – 12.15 Plenary session

11.15 – 11.40

Wolfgang Köck and Moritz Reese, Department for Environmental & Planning Law, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research/UFZ Leipzig

The Role of Legal Transition Targets - to Promiseland by Rule of Law?

DESCRIPTION: The speakers will highlight the fundamental importance of long-term, goal-oriented governance, its different legal manifestations and central implementation problems. They take a closer look at two examples, namely the energy transition (“Energiewende”) and the Water Framework Directive, and will finally draw some conclusions about the potential and limits of this steering approach and on the role of the judiciary as enforcer of regulated long term targets.

11.40 – 12.05

Eleanor Sharpston, Advocate General, European Court of Justice, Emeritus Fellow King’s College University of Cambridge.

Facilitating access to courts to improve the enforcement of sustainability

Some illustrations from the CJEU

DESCRIPTION: However well-drafted legislative provisions to improve sustainability may be, their impact will be limited unless there are also appropriate enforcement mechanisms. Whilst government agencies and public bodies tasked with overseeing environmental protection indubitably have an important role to play, the case law of the CJEU shows that non-governmental actors’ vigilance can lead to crucial developments in the enforcement of environmental laws – provided that they can get through the door of the court …

12.05 -12.45 Discussion

12.45- 13.00 Closure

13.00 – 13.30  Light Lunch

13.30 – 16.50 Excursion to KTC Zegveld: Dutch polders and subsidence


During the excursion, we will drive through the classic Dutch polder landscape by bus and visit the Knowledge Transfer Centre (KTC) at Zegveld. The area in which the KTC is located consists of peat soil that subsides about two to four centimeters every year. The KTC develops and shares innovative solutions for the area. Colleagues from the regional water authority De Stichtse Rijnlanden and from Utrecht University will tell us about the role and responsibility of the water authorities in Dutch water management, especially in relation to soil subsidence, and about the strategies to deal with (the consequences of) soil subsidence. We then will have a guided tour ‘across the fields’ where we can discover the effects of soil subsidence and look at innovative methods to decrease subsidence or adapt to it. It is advisable to wear sturdy shoes.

13.30    Departure by bus from Janskerkhof

14.20    Arrival at KTC Zegveld: coffee and tea

14.30    Presentations:

-             Jantine Hoekstra, Regional Water Authority (Hoogheemraadschap) De Stichtse Rijnlanden

-             Martijn van Gils, UCWOSL, Utrecht University

15.15    Guided walk

16.00    Departure to Utrecht

Ca 16.50 Arrival at Utrecht Centre

Molen in polderlandschap bij Kockengen