While the focus of earth system governance is on the human-social aspects of Earth system changes, law has played a peripheral part in the earth system governance scientific agenda. Earth system governance perspectives have also not significantly infiltrated the juridical domain. In this paper we seek to initiate a debate on the juridical dimensions of earth system governance. We make out a case in support of developing a new overarching legal phenomenon that, more than environmental law (among others) comprehensively accommodates and encapsulates the juridical aspects of earth system governance, including a new accompanying research agenda. We call this new legal phenomenon ‘earth system law’. Earth system law, as we aim to show, could introduce a new era in legal scholarship, while seeking to comprehensively respond to the regulatory challenges presented by a changing Earth system in the Anthropocene. For illustrative purposes, we provide a conceptual framework of earth system law by focusing on international environmental law. We show how core considerations of earth system law might set in motion some of the conceptual and regulatory changes required to eventually progress from international environmental law to a mature form of earth system law.
Keywords: Earth system law; Earth system governance; Anthropocene; Environmental law; Legal science