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harmful environmental impacts

Second, when seen from the perspective of the relations between international environmental law and other branches of international law, principles and concepts may also perform a ‘conciliation function’. For example, the concept of sustainable development serves as a conceptual matrix to articulate the sometimes inconsistent requirements of international environmental law and international economic law.9 As mentioned by the ICJ in the Case concerning the Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros Project: ‘This need to reconcile economic development with protection of the environment is aptly expressed in the concept of sustainable development’. 10 Third, concepts and principles can also perform an ‘architectural’ function in that they can lay the foundations of an environmental regime. For example, the climate change regime has been built upon the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. The same regime serves to illustrate a fourth function of concepts and principles, namely their interpretation function. The preambles of the Kyoto Protocol as well as certain decisions adopted by the Conference of the Parties (‘COP’) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change or by the Meeting of the Parties (‘CMP’) to the Kyoto Protocol refer to the principles enshrined in Article 3 of the UNFCCC as a guide to interpretation.11 The ‘interpretive function’ also operates beyond the direct application of these environmental norms and instruments, in particular when the application of other international law norms is likely to have an impact on the environment. By way of illustration, the ICJ has held that the principle of prevention of environmental damage must be taken into account when interpreting the terms of the right to self-defence.12 Lastly, these principles can have a ‘decision-making function’ or, in other words, operate as ‘primary norms’. To cite just one example, the Trail Smelter Case – a leading environmental dispute – was decided on the basis of the no harm principle.13