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Principle of Non-Regression

According to the principle of non-regression, new laws must not be less ambitious than current laws. This principle aims to prevent any weakening of the law, thereby addressing concerns about backsliding and insufficient progress in the face of the challenge of environmental degradation. A regression in international or national environmental law could pose a serious threat to the rights of future generations.

Applied to environmental law, this principle prevents the adoption of standards that would reduce the overall level of environmental protection guaranteed by current law. Thus, States cannot weaken their national level of environmental protection. For example, if the principle of non-regression was widely recognized, former United States President Donald Trump could not have withdrawn from the Paris Agreement in 2017....


In a more ambitious application, non-regression implies the improvement of environmental legislation. For example, the 1972 Stockholm Declaration states in Principle 1 that "[m]an (...) has a solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment." Furthermore, the Paris Agreement also speaks of improvement in its article 4 which provides that the new national contribution of each State "will represent an progression compared to the contribution determined at the national level then in force of the Party and will reflect its ambition as high as possible.

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