Haniehalsadat Aboutorabifard

PhD Candidate
Haniehalsadat Aboutorabifard photo
Dissertation Title
Investment tribunals and environmental protection: Friends or Foes? Holding Foreign Investors Environmentally Accountable before Investor-State Tribunals

I have a longstanding interest in exploring the intricate intersections between law and the environment, particularly with a focus on the legal mechanisms for environmental protection. This fascination took root during my LLB studies at Tehran University, where I became aware of the importance of environmental policies and their potential to regulate processes that pose threats to our surroundings.

During my LLB, I recognized that establishing a comprehensive global environmental standard and addressing issues such as climate change necessitates a profound understanding of its drivers, impacts, and challenges. This realization prompted me to delve into Environmental Studies at the University of Waterloo, seeking to comprehend how policymakers can leverage the principles of sustainable development and Corporate Social Responsibility to effect positive changes in environmental regulation.

My academic journey has been marked by extensive research on environmental issues, providing me with valuable insights into the practical implementation and challenges associated with environmental policies, particularly within the financial sector. The amalgamation of my LLB and Environmental Studies has not only deepened my understanding of the world but has also aligned seamlessly with my dual passions for law and the environment.

Motivated by this synergy, I am currently pursuing a PhD at Osgoode Hall Law School, where I aim to explore a pivotal question: how can environmental regulations compel foreign investors to be environmentally accountable at the international level? This research endeavor represents the culmination of my academic trajectory, merging my legal background with a keen dedication to addressing global environmental challenges.


“One very simple truth about Global Warming is this, that it will spare nobody, however rich, mighty and powerful we think we are”. In the 21st century, the growing pace of foreign direct investments has scaled up the environmental problem of global warming to become planetary in scope and inter-generational in its implications. Undermining human rights related to living in a healthy environment is among the major consequences of emission-polluting transnational investment activities. Despite the integral role of environmentally risky investments in exacerbating the global warming problem, foreign investors’ economic rights are enormously protected in international investment tribunals that often disregard the environmental responsibility of foreign investors.

In this proposal, I will focus my attention on the environmental aspect of the dispute settlement procedures offered in investment tribunals and will examine this central question: the extent to which investment law could pave the path for host States to move towards environmental protection by the means of foreign direct investment versus, ironically, the granted opportunities of investment tribunals to foreign investors under investment law could contribute to the deterioration of the environment.

I seek to understand the impeding role of investment tribunals concerning environmental protection. I will take a qualitative approach to answering this question by examining case law and scholarly commentary concerning the role of investment agreements in environmental protection; and then more specifically, by surveying additional relevant scholarly documents, cases, and commentary on the structure and general criticisms associated with investment tribunals.