International Environmental Law

This course aims to offer an overview of international environmental law to allow students to familiarise themselves with the key concepts in this field. The course will begin with an overview of the key international legal principles and rules dealing with the protection of the environment. It will do so by giving an historical introduction to put the evolution of this field in context. After this introductory lectures, the course will address the role that international institutions play in this field before moving on to examine selected treaty regimes to provide concrete and practical examples of the international regulation of environmental issues. In particular, the course will examine some of the most topical global environmental legal regimes, with particular attention to global environmental problems such as the depletion of the ozone layer, the transboundary movement of hazardous waste, the conservation of biological diversity and the international responses to climate change. The course, finally, will examine cross cutting issues, including the relationship between human rights and the protection of the environment, the protection of the environment in times of war and the question of compliance with environmental obligations.

  1. Introduction/Overview
    • International law and the protection of the environment: why do we need it?
    • What is international environmental law and its relationship with general international law
    • Peculiarities and characteristics of international environmental law
  2. Historical evolution
    • The early days of international environmental law
    • From the creation of the United Nations to the 1972 Stockholm Conference
    • United Nations Conference on Human Environment – UNCHE (Stockholm, 1972)
    • United Nations Conference on Environment and Development – UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992)
    • World Summit on Sustainable Development – WSSD (Johannesburg, 2002)
    • Recent trends and developments
  3. Principles of International Environmental Law
    • Principle 21 Stockholm Declaration/Principle 2 Rio Declaration
    • Principle of preventive action
    • Principle of good neighbourliness and international co-operation
    • Precautionary Principle
    • Preventive Principle
    • Polluter-pays Principle
    • Principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibility
    • Principle of Public Participation
    • Principle of Sustainable Development
  4. Analysis of selected treaty regimes
    • Atmospheric pollution
    • Marine pollution
    • Freshwater resources
    • Biodiversity
    • Hazardous substances
  5. Selected cross-cutting issues
    • Human Rights and the environment
    • War and the environment
    • Trade and the Environment
    • Development and the Environment
    • Compliance

International Environmental Law is no doubt one of the most challenging and innovative fields in international law. The past two decades have seen the emergence of numerous international principles and rules in this area challenging many of the more established rules and principles in the international legal field. Several multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) have been adopted and international environmental rules regulate almost every environmental issue one can think of. For example, just to mention a few areas, there are treaties dealing with marine pollution, hazardous activities, atmospheric pollution, waste management, access to information and so on.

leitner center law, law new york school
Leitner Center for International Law and Justice
Fordham University School of Law
150 West 62nd Street, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10023 USA

Email: LeitnerCenter@law.fordham.edu
Telephone: 212.636.6862
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Faculty and Staff
Elisabeth Wickeri
Executive Director, Leitner Center for International Law and Justice

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