Should trees have standing? The decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ or Court) in its Question of Compensation (Costa Rica v. Nicaragua) case of February 2, 2018 provides a pioneering example of damage to the environment being litigated before an international tribunal. The judgment is the first time that the ICJ has adjudicated compensation for environmental damage, and it is only the third time the ICJ has awarded compensation at all. Nevertheless, the ICJ boldly asserted in this case that “damage to the environment, and the consequent impairment or loss of the ability of the environment to provide goods and services, is compensable under international law” (para. 42). That said, the reasoning employed by the Court leaves much to be desired. Given the increasing number of cases involving the environment, it is unfortunate that international courts and tribunals will garner only limited guidance from the methodology adopted by the ICJ in valuing environmental damage.
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