Principles of International Environmental Law

By Philippe Sands | Go to book overview

8

Atmosphere

H. Taubenfeld, ‘International Environmental Law: Air and Outer Space’, 13 Natural
Resources Journal
315 (1973); D. Gelsom, Atmospheric Pollution: A Global Problem
(1992); G. Wetstone and A. Rosencrantz, ‘Transboundary Air Pollution: The Search
for an International Response’, 8 Harvard Environmental Law Review 89 (1984);
C. Flinterman et al. (eds.), Transboundary Air Pollution: International Legal Aspects
of the Co-operation of States
(1986); J. Brunnee, Acid Rain and Ozone Layer De-
pletion: International Law and Regulation
(1988); P. Okowa, State Responsibility for
Transboundary Air Pollution in International Law
(2000)


Introduction

The protection of the atmosphere was a relative latecomer to international environment regulation but is now well established. With limited exceptions, until 1979 no treaty sought, as its primary purpose, to place limits on the right of states to allow atmospheric emissions which caused environmental damage. Some treaties had, however, called for general preventive strategies.1 Since 1979, numerous treaties and other international acts have addressed the protection of the atmosphere. Although there is no atmospheric equivalent to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, international legal instruments have been adopted at the regional and global level which address a range of issues, including: transboundary pollution by sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds; the protection of the ozone layer; the prevention of climate change; and the protection of the environment of outer space. The precedents set by treaties relating to the protection of other environmental media, in particular the marine environment, have contributed to the development of these rules.

Landmarks in the development of international law in this area include: the 1938 and 1941 decisions in the Trail Smelter case; the applications brought to the ICJ by Australia and New Zealand against France with respect to French atmospheric nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean region; growing evidence in Europe

1 See chapter 6, pp. 246–9 above.

-317-

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