The second edition of Principles of International EnvironmentalLaw indicates that the legal aspects of international environmental issues are of growing intellectual and political interest, and that they have moved beyond the situation I described nearly ten years ago as reflecting ‘an early phase of development’. It is apparent from the new material which this edition treats – new conventions, new secondary instruments, new (or newly recognised) norms of customary law, and a raft of new judicial decisions – that international environmental law is now well established and is a central part of the international legal order. It is also clear that international environmental law has reached new levels of complexity, in particular as it has become increasingly integrated into other social objectives and subject areas, particularly in the economic field. The burgeoning case law, and the increased involvement of practitioners, suggests that it can no longer be said that international environmental law is, as a branch of general public international law, at an early stage of practical development.
Like the first edition, this edition (together with the accompanying volume of international documents for students) is intended to provide a comprehensive overview of those rules of public international law which have as their object the protection of the environment. Those rules have become more numerous and complex, but also more accesible: the advent of the Internet often means that material which was previously difficult to track down – for example, information as to the status, signature and ratification oftreaties, and acts and decisions of conferences of the parties and susbidiary bodies – is now relatively easy to obtain. But the Internet also increases the danger of becoming overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of material that is now available, a risk which is exacerbated by the very extensive (and growing) secondary literature which is produced every year, only a small proportion of which may really be said to indicate real insights into new developments. This background necessarily means that what is gained on breadth maybe lost – at least in some areas – on depth. This comprehensive account cannot address all of the details that now dominate specific areas – trade, fisheries and climate change spring immediately to mind – and the reader will need to refer to more detailed accounts of particular sectors, and the websites of various conventions, to obtain many of the details. Over the