The environment and international society:
issues, concepts and definitions
Given that the land – and the sea – and the air-spaces of planet Earth are
shared, and are not naturally distributed among the states of the world, and
given that world transforming activities, especially economic activities, can
have effects directly or cumulatively, on large parts of the world environ-
ment, how can international law reconcile the inherent and fundamental
interdependence of the world environment? How could legal control of
activities adversely affecting the world environment be instituted, given
that such activities may be fundamental to the economies of particular
It is now widely recognised that the planet faces a diverse and growing range of environmental challenges which can only be addressed through international co-operation. Acid rain, ozone depletion, climate change, loss of biodiversity, toxic and hazardous products and wastes, pollution of rivers and depletion of freshwater resources are some of the issues which international law is being called upon to address. Since the mid-1980s, the early international legal developments which addressed aspects of the conservation of natural resources have crystallised into an important and growing part of public international law. The conditions which have contributed to the emergence of international environmental law are easily identified: environmental issues are accompanied by a recognition that ecological interdependence does not respect national boundaries and that issues previously considered to be matters of domestic concern have international implications. The implications, which maybe bilateral, subregional, regional or global, can frequently only be addressed by international law and regulation.
The growth of international environmental issues is reflected in the large body of principles and rules of international environmental law which apply bilaterally, regionally and globally, and reflects international interdependence
1 P. Allott, Eunomia:A New Order for a New World (1990), para. 17.52.