No study of international environmental law would be complete without an examination of the injurious consequences of human activities in the areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction or control, usually referred to as the “global commons,” or simply “the commons.” The call for the development of State responsibility and liability for damage caused to the commons is so recent and novel that few positive rules of international liability can be construed either from international adjudication or treaty practice.1 However, international efforts are moving to develop rules to address damage to the commons per se.2
Traditionally rules of international liability for transboundary damage related predominantly to injury to national rights and interests, whether suffered directly by the State itself or through its nationals. With the upsurge of international concern over environmental protection, however, the issue of damage to the global commons has become one of the most important topics for international action. Such issues as maritime environmental protection,3 the depletion of the ozone
1 It is generally claimed that the first formal call for the consideration of the development of legal rules of State responsibility and liability for damage caused to the areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction and control was the 1972 Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment (UN Doc. A/Conf.48/14/rev.1) in its Principles 21 and 22. Also Article 235 of the Convention on the Law of the Sea (Montego Bay, December 10, 1982), 1833 UNTS 396, relates to the development of the rules of State responsibility and liability for damage to the marine environment.
2 For a general outline of the current environmental issues, see Daniel Barstow Magraw and Sergei Vinogradov, “Environmental Law,” in Lori Fisler Damrosch, Gennady M. Danilenko and Rein Müllerson (eds.), Beyond Confrontation: International Law for the Post-Cold War Era (Boulder, Westview, 1995), at p. 193.
3 For example, see the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea, IMO Doc. LEG/CONF.10/8/3, reprinted in 35 ILM 1415.