International environmental law


International environmental law is law based on treaties and international agreements concerning the environment. The sources of international environmental law are wide ranging and as well as treaties there are:

  • Conventions
  • International legal instruments
  • Protocols
  • Pacts
  • Covenant

In additions to these agreements, there are general principles and customs, as well as case law and recommendations. International environmental law is a relatively new area of law, yet encompasses a wide range of issues including:

  • Wildlife
  • Water pollution
  • Atmospheric pollution
  • Biodiversity protection

If you are affected by any of these issues, call us and we will recommend a specialist environmental lawyer who is qualified to advise on international law matters to help you.

International developments

There have been a number of important constitutional developments in international environmental law, including outcomes of the 1972 United Nations Convention on the Human Environment, which was held in Stockholm.

This resulted in the Stockholm declaration on the Human Environment   which included principles and recommendations and resulted in the creation of an international environmental agency. Unfortunately none of the principles or recommendations were legally binding and as a result were not followed by any country.

The Earth Summit in 1992, held in Rio de Janeiro, led to the adoption of some legally binding environmental treaties, including:

  • The Framework Convention on Climate Change
  • The Convention on Biological Diversity

There were also a number of non-binding agreements reached concerning the environment and development. Since the Earth Summit there have been a number of other world meetings concerning the environment, but none that have had the same international environmental impact as the 1992 meeting.

The EU

EU environmental law has increased dramatically in both volume and complexity over a relatively short period of time. Environmental law has become the centre of much media attention, as well as a topic of much public and political debate. As a result of this, there has been much law created at a national level, as well as at a European and international level.

EU environmental law is created by:

  • Treaties
  • Regulations
  • Directives
  • Case law

Treaties provide a legal basis for European Community environmental action. The objectives of the European Community must be considered when interpreting any European laws and EU environmental law is no different. One of the main objectives is that of sustainable development, and this must be considered by member states when interpreting the laws of the EU.

Each of the institutions of Europe has a role to play in making and developing EU environmental law:

  • The European Commission has the primary role of proposing regulations and directives to put the objectives of the EU into effect
  • The European Parliament also has a role in promoting environmental issues within the European Community
  • The European Court of Justice must ensure that the law is applied, but also plays an important role in developing EU environmental law

Important regulations have been made on shipments of waste, whilst directives have been made on waste-management operations. EU environmental law has recently changed to allow the protection of the environment through criminal law.

It is an incredibly complicated area of law, spanning many different international jurisdictions, and one which should not be entered into blindly. Use of specialist environmental lawyer is highly recommended.

For more information on issues affecting the environment, see our page on environmental law.

Environmental law is an extremely niche area of law and one that it is often difficult to find a lawyer who really specialises in. Contact Law works with environmental law experts who are qualified to deal with any issues relating to environmental law including any international aspects. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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