In this article we argue that international environmental law cannot continue to exist in its present form for the purpose of the Anthropocene. We show that analytically, international environmental law and its lawyers are unable to fully understand and respond to the complex governance challenges arising from a complex Earth system. Normatively, international environmental law has failed to provide appropriate norms to prevent humans from encroaching on Earth system limits. In a transformative sense, international environmental law has not been sufficiently ambitious to achieve the type of radical transformations necessary to ensure planetary integrity and socio-ecological justice. We need a new legal paradigm that is better suited for the purpose of the Anthropocene that must address international environmental law’s analytical, normative and transformative concerns. We call this new paradigm earth system law. Building on our recent work, we offer here some preliminary thoughts about what we think the analytical, normative, and transformative dimensions of earth system law could and should entail, and why they would be more appropriate for the purpose of governing a complex Earth system in the Anthropocene.
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