Principles of International Environmental Law

By Philippe Sands | Go to book overview

12
Hazardous substances and activities

Introduction

International environmental law has tended to regulate specific environmental media and/or resources rather than particular activities or products. There is, however, a significant emerging body of rules which regulate those activities or products considered by the international community, within a region or globally, to be hazardous or dangerous and to merit specific attention. This chapter describes those rules by reference to international regulation of five areas, namely: (a) accident prevention, preparedness and response; (b) the classification, international trade, and transportation of hazardous chemicals and pesticides; (c) the working environment; (d) radioactive materials; and (e) biotechnology. This chapter also identifies and outlines the main international regulations which address activities considered to be particularly damaging to the environment, such as energy, mining, transport and agriculture. It will be apparent that the past few years have seen significant developments, in particular the adoption of legally binding instruments on international trade in chemicals and pesticides (1998), on trade and marketing of living modified organisms (2000) and on the production and use of persistent organic pollutants (2001).

To develop a comprehensive understanding of the extent to which international law regulates hazardous activities and substances, it is necessary also to consider the disposal of and international trade in hazardous wastes (chapter 13); the disposal of hazardous wastes at sea or in freshwater (chapters 9 and 10); the environmental impact assessment of hazardous activities (including lists and annexes indicating categories of activities which require prior environmental assessment) (chapter 16); information on hazardous activities and substances (including activities in respect of which information must be made available to the public or for which environmental auditing or accounting is recommended) (chapter 17); the regional rules of the Antarctic and the EC (chapters 14 and 15); and the rules on international liability for environmental damage caused by hazardous activities and substances (chapter 18). The first hazardous substances the production of which was prohibited by

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