At the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, development of rules of international liability for environmental damage was called for.1 The participating States undertook to “develop further the international law regarding liability and compensation” for environmental damage caused to the territory of other States or areas beyond national jurisdiction or control.2 In the years that followed, State governments tackled the matter on a much broader basis with commendable achievements, both nationally and internationally. The existinglaws on transboundary damage reviewed in this study bear out such efforts.
For accidental damage, international liability rules are largely influenced by the risk or hazard posed by the activity in question. The tendency discerned from the existing regimes points to more harmonized and standardized international regulations in the future and damage rules based increasingly on the substantial practice of States. To date, the international regulation of hazardous activities generally provides for civil liability of the operator, while States undertake the responsibility to regulate such high-risk activities by establishing standard rules of conduct and by imposing compulsory financial mechanisms on the industry for the purpose of compensation in the event of an accident. The
1 See, in particular, Principles 21 and 22 of the Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, in Report on the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, UN Doc. A/CONF.48/14 (Stockholm, June 5–16, 1972), reproduced in 11 ILM 1416 (1972).
2Ibid., Principle 22.