Principles of International Environmental Law

By Philippe Sands | Go to book overview

17

Environmental information

Introduction

Improving the availability of information on the state of the environment and on activities which have adverse or damaging effects are well-established objectives of international environmental law.1 Information is widely recognised as a prerequisite to effective national and international environmental management, protection and co-operation. The availability of, and access to, information allows preventative and mitigation measures to be taken, ensures the participation of citizens in national decision-making processes, and can influence individual, consumer and corporate behaviour. Information also allows the international community to determine whether states are complying with their legal obligations.

Environmental impact assessment, addressed in chapter 16, is one important technique for acquiring environmental information. International agreements and practice have developed other techniques for ensuring that states and other members of the international community are provided with information on the environmental consequences of certain activities. Legal obligations developed with early treaty obligations requiring parties to provide information to the depository, or to other parties, on measures to implement commitments. Since then, environmental information has gradually emerged as a central issue of international environmental law. Principle 2 of the 1972 Stockholm Declaration called for the ‘free flow of up-to-date scientific information and transfer

1 On early practice, including at the national level, see OECD (Environment Committee), ‘Application of Information and Consultation Practices for Preventing Transfrontier Pollution’, in OECD, Transfrontier Pollution and the Role of States (1981); M. Baram, ‘Risk Communication Law and Implementation Issues in the US and EC’, 6 Boston University International Law Journal 21 (1988); R. Abrams and D. Ward, ‘Prospects for Safer Communities: Emergency Response, Community Right-to-Know, and Prevention of Chemical Accidents’, 14 Harvard Evironmental Law Review 135 (1990); B. Nordenstam and J. F. DiMento, ‘Right-to-Know: Implications of Risk Communication Research for Regulating Policy’, 23 University of California (Davis) Law Review 333 (1990); M. Padgett, ‘Environmental Health and Safety International Standardisation of Right-to-Know Legislation in Response to Refusal of United States Multinationals to Publish Toxic Emissions Data for Their United Kingdom Facilities’, 22 Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law 701 (1992).

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