Environmental law has international as well as national perspectives

Environmental law has international as well as national perspectives”. Discuss any 5 international conventions of significance constituting provisions for the protections of Environmental pollution.


Protection of environment or in other words environment preservations or preventing environment pollution has been a growing concern of the modern times. As time flies by, and with the theory of global warming and other environmental issues coming into action, protecting the environment is of utmost significance. Every nation has its duty towards protecting their surrounding environment. Protecting environment has become such an issue that nowadays; the perspective of protecting has gone on to cross national borders as well thus becoming a global issue.

So as it stands, environmental law has both international and national perspectives. I will take you through to both the perspectives of environmental law and also discuss in detail five international conventions of significance constituting provisions for the protections of environmental law. First let us go through what is meant by environmental law.


According to Wikipedia, Environmental Law is stated as a collective term describing international treaties (conventions), statutes, regulations, and common law or national legislation (where applicable) that operates to regulate the interaction of humanity and the natural environment with an aim reduce the impacts of human activity. The topic may be divided into two major subjects: pollution control and remediation, and resource conservation and individual exhaustion which are described below.

Environmental remediation

Environmental remediation deals with the removal of pollution or contaminants from environmental media such as soil, groundwater, sediment, or surface water for the general protection of human health and the environment. Remediation is generally subject to an array of regulatory requirements, and also can be based on assessments of human health and ecological risks where no legislated standards exist or where standards are advisory.

Pollution control

Pollution control is involved with the controlling of emissions and effluents into air, water or soil without which the waste products from consumption, heating, agriculture, mining, manufacturing, transportation and other human activities, whether they accumulate or disperse, will degrade the environment. In the hierarchy of controls, pollution prevention and waste minimization are more desirable than pollution control.

Resource conservation

Resource conservation deals with management of the human use of natural resources to provide the maximum benefit to current generations while maintaining capacity to meet the needs of future generations. Conservation includes both the protection and rational use of natural resources.


According to Wikipedia, the first legal rules on environmental issues are pretty old – they are clearly originating from Roman law rules and were also applied in the Middle Ages in Europe. While it is possible to identify early legal structures that would today fall into the “environmental” law metric – for example the common law recognition of private and public rights to protect interests in land, such as nuisance, or post-industrial revolution human health protections – the concept of “environmental law” as a separate and distinct body of law is a 20th Century development. The recognition that the natural environment was fragile and in need of special legal protections, the translation of that recognition into legal structures, and the development of those structures into a larger body of “environmental law” did not occur until about the 1960s. At that time, numerous influences – including a growing awareness of the unity and fragility of the biosphere following mankind’s first steps into outer space increased public concern over the impact of industrial activity on natural resources and human health, the increasing strength of the regulatory state, and more broadly the advent and success of environmentalism as a political movement – coalesced to produce a huge new body of law in a relatively short period of time. While the modern history of environmental law is one of continuing controversy, by the end of the 20th Century, environmental law had been established as a component of the legal landscape in all developed nations of the world, many developing ones, and the larger project of international law.


Environmental law is often the source of controversy. Notably, the early history of national environmental regulation in the United States (at the time the world leader in environmental regulation) was marked by relative political unity. The National Environmental Policy Act(1969), the Clean Air Act (1970), the Clean Water Act (1972), and the Endangered Species Act (1973) all were enacted with broad bipartisan support, and ultimately signed into law by Republican President Richard Nixon. Even then, however, critics raised concerns regarding the need for such laws and the costs involved in implementing them. Richard Nixon himself initially vetoed the Clean Water Act, citing its projected costs, though he was ultimately overridden by Congress. Debates over the necessity, fairness, cost, and need for environmental regulation continue to this day.


The necessity of directly regulating a particular activity due to the activity’s environmental consequences is often a subject of debate. These debates may be scientific. For example, scientific uncertainty fuels the ongoing debate with more and more over greenhouse gas regulation and is a major factor in the debate over whether to ban pesticides.


It is very common for regulated industry to argue against environmental regulation on the basis of cost. Indeed, in the U.S. estimates of the environmental regulation’s total costs reach 2% of GDP, and any new regulation will arguably contribute in some way to that burden. Difficulties arise, however, in performing cost-benefit analysis. The value of a healthy ecosystem is not easily quantified, nor the value of clean air, species diversity, etc. Furthermore environmental issues may gain an ethical or moral dimension that would discount cost.


Environmental interests will often criticize environmental regulation as inadequately protective of the environment. Furthermore, strong environmental laws do not guarantee strong enforcement. Nonetheless, the cost benefit analysis for society at large between having laws that protect citizens from toxic or dangerous living and work conditions such as those that existed in the early industrial 1900’s or not clearly comes down on the side of regulation.


National constitutions

In order to reduce environmental pollution within a national boundary there needs to be presence of acts, rules, regulations which will create a provision for safeguarding environment. Many countries have their own constitutions to safeguard their surrounding environment. These constitutions are known as national constitutions. Below and in the following pages we look at some national constitutions regarding environmental law in some of the countries.


The Brazilian government created the Ministry of Environment in 1992 in order to develop better strategies of protecting the environment, use natural resources sustainably and enforce public environmental policies. The Ministry of Environment has authority over policies involving environment, water resources, preservation, and environmental programs involving the Amazon.


The Department of the Environment Act establishes the Department of the Environment in the Canadian government as well as the position Minister of the Environment. Their duties include “the preservation and enhancement of the quality of the natural environment, including water, air and soil quality; renewable resources, including migratory birds and other non-domestic flora and fauna; water; meteorology;”The Environmental Protection Act is the main piece of Canadian environmental legislation that was put into place March 31, 2000. The Act focuses on “respecting pollution prevention and the protection of the environment and human health in order to contribute to sustainable development.”


The Basic Environmental Law is the basic structure of Japan’s environmental policies replacing the Basic Law for Environmental Pollution Control and the Nature Conservation Law. The updated law aims to address “global environmental problems, urban pollution by everyday life, loss of accessible natural environment in urban areas and degrading environmental protection capacity in forests and farmlands.

International constitutions

Besides the presence of national constitutions, we also have international constitutions, which are used to safeguard the cross border interest of environment safety when there is a likely affect of one country being affected by another country’s environmental hazard.

The importance of having an international constitution for environmental lies in the fact that pollution, scarce resources, wild animals and plants do not respect political boundaries, making international law an important aspect of environmental law. Numerous legally binding international agreements now encompass a wide variety of issue-areas, from terrestrial, marine and atmospheric pollution through to wildlife and biodiversity protection.[1]

Below we study five of the most significant international constitutions creating a provision for environmental safety.

1. Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT)

This is a treaty prohibiting all test detonations of nuclear weapons except underground. It was developed both to slow the arms race and to stop the excessive release of nuclear fallout into the planet’s atmosphere. It was signed and ratified by the governments of the Soviet Union and United Kingdom and the United States in 1963. It is officially known as the treaty banning nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water, but is often abbreviated as the PTBT or NTBT, although the latter also refers to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which was signed by the governments of the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States.

2. Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer

It is a Multilateral Environmental Agreement. It was agreed upon at the Vienna Conference of 1985 and entered into force in 1988. It has been ratified by 196 states as well as the European Union. It acts as a framework for the international efforts to protect the ozone layer. However, it does not include legally binding reduction goals for the use of CFCs, the main chemical agents causing ozone depletion. These are laid out in the accompanying Montreal Protocol.

3. Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer

This is an international treaty concerned with the protecting of the ozone layer by phasing out the production of numerous substances believed to be responsible for ozone depletion. The treaty was opened for signature on September 16, 1987, and entered into force on January 1, 1989, followed by a first meeting in Helsinki, May 1989 followed by seven revisions, in 1990 (London), 1991 (Nairobi), 1992 (Copenhagen), 1993 (Bangkok), 1995 (Vienna), 1997 (Montreal), and 1999 (Beijing). It is believed that if the international agreement is adhered to, the ozone layer is expected to recover by 2050. Due to its widespread adoption and implementation it has been hailed as an example of exceptional international co-operation. The two ozone treaties have been ratified by 197 states and the European Unionmaking them the most widely ratified treaties in United Nations history.

4. Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal

More common known as the Basel Convention, is an international treaty that was designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations, and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to LDCs. It does not, however, address the movement of radioactive waste. The Convention is also intended to minimize the amount and toxicity of wastes generated, to ensure their environmentally sound management as closely as possible to the source of generation, and to assist LDCs in environmentally sound management of the hazardous and other wastes they generate. The Convention was opened for signature on 22 March 1989, and entered into force on 5 May 1992. As of January 2013, 178 countries, as well as the European Union are parties to the Convention, while Afghanistan, Haiti and the United States have signed the Convention but not ratified it.

5. Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)

It bans all nuclear explosions in all environments, for military or civilian purposes. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 September 1996but it has not entered into force as of December 2012. The Treaty was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 September 1996. It opened for signature in New York on 24 September 1996, when it was signed by 71 States, including five of the eight then nuclear-capable states. As of February 2013, 159 states have ratified the CTBT and another 24 states have signed but not ratified it. The treaty will enter into force 180 days after the 44 states listed in Annex 2 which are the states that participated in the CTBT’s negotiations between 1994 and 1996 and possessed nuclear power reactors or research reactors at that time of the treaty have ratified it.


Environmental Law is not something that is not limited to the national boundaries at these modern times but rather it is a global issue affecting the interests of the countries mutually. So to safeguard these interests and not to hold one country the reason for another country’s atmosphere deterioration, it is important to have international constitutions for environmental law.

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Basel Convention. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basel_Convention

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty. (n.d.). Retrieved from


Conservation of resources. (n.d.). Retrieved from


Environmental Law. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_law

Environmental remediation. (n.d.). Retrieved from


Montreal Protocol. (n.d.). Retrieved from


Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. (n.d.). Retrieved from


Pollution. (n.d.). Retrieved from


Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer. (n.d.). Retrieved from


[1] “Environmental Law” available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_law [Accessed on 08 March 2013]