FIXED CONSTITUTIONAL COMMITMENTS: EVALUATING CLIMATE CHANGE CONSTITUTIONALISM’S ‘NEW FRONTIER’

Constitutional protections for the environment typically exhort governments, in broad terms, to pursue objectives such as mitigating climate change. This article identifies a species of environmental constitutional provision that, by securing quantified commitments, departs markedly from past approaches. The numeric precision of these ‘fixed constitutional commitments’ is intended to curtail vagueness, open-endedness and interest-balancing – features that, though standard in contemporary constitutional procedure, are poorly suited to chronic emergencies requiring unwavering policy responses over the extreme long term. Fixed constitutional commitments on the environment have been enacted in Australia (Victoria), Bhutan, Kenya and the United States (New York). Yet they raise both pragmatic and normative concerns. The article focuses on (and refutes) a significant normative objection: that taking foundational questions of substantive policy offline unduly curtails democratic deliberation.