The New International Law-Makers? Conferences of the Parties to Multilateral Environmental Agreements

This Article adds to a nascent and still limited awareness that something important is afoot in international law: the activity of Conferences of the Parties (COPs) to multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs). Some of this activity-such as formal amendments to a treaty or protocol- requires a state party’s consent before it will be binding on that state. This activity fits easily within traditional categories of the sources of international law and gives rise to new obligations for states that are identifiable as hard law. However, other activity by COPs does not require the consent of every state party to the treaty in order to come into effect and does not provide for any form of opt-out for dissenting states; it is agreed on by consensus or, failing consensus, some form of majority vote. I term this consensus-based COP activity.