Growth of international environmental law as a distinct field of public international law began in the 1970s with the Stockholm Conference on the Environment (1972). Since then, interest has steadily increased and it is one of the fastest growing areas of international law. Current issues of international concern covered by environmental law include climate change, desertification, destruction of tropical rain forests, marine plastics pollution, trade in endangered species (e.g. ivory), shipment of hazardous wastes to developing countries, protection of wetlands, oil spills, transboundary nuclear air pollution (e.g. the Chernobyl nuclear disaster), dumping of hazardous wastes, groundwater depletion, international trade in pesticides, and acid rain. Environmental law is also cutting across other areas of international law, such as commercial/business law, trade, and human rights.
International cooperation in the forms of treaties, agreements and resolutions created by intergovernmental organizations as well as national laws and regulations are being used to protect the environment. Researching international environmental law will often involve locating documents from major organizations concerned with protection of the environment, such as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the European Union, the OECD, the European Commission, and the Council of Europe. Since ultimate responsibility for the protection of the environment remains at the national and local level, municipal law is also relevant.
This is an in-depth guide to researching international environmental law.
Revised 2010.10 (MMS)
Updated 2022.03 (MMK)
Revised 2023.07 (DEI)