Here is an essay on ‘International Environmental Law’ for class 10, 11 and 12. Find paragraphs, long and short essays on ‘International Environmental Law’ especially written for school and college students.
Essay # 1. Introduction to International Environmental Law:
Environmental conventions attempt to provide a clear understanding of environmental issues, and aim to build upon the capacity required for effectively controlling pollution, conserving natural resources, and promoting their sustainable use.
International conventions are an important source of international environmental laws. They strive for integration of environmental concerns into the developmental processes at all levels ensuring compliance and enforcement of various environmental laws consolidating the environmental rights and duties.
International laws or law of nations thus provide the foundation for governmental policies and actions for the conservation of the environment and for ensuring that the use of natural resources is both equitable and sustainable.
It’s a work in progress. While international environmental law continues to evolve, the existing treaties, declarations, and state practice are beginning to provide a framework.
Source of International Law:
The sources of international law consist of ‘hard law’ and ‘soft law’.
‘Hard law’ is basically the treaties, academic texts, judicial decisions, and general principles of law which are legally binding.
Whereas rules which are not formally binding per se but still play an important role in the field of international environmental law such as declarations, charters, etc. are known as ‘soft law’. Soft law informally establishes the acceptable norms of behaviour.
Essay # 2. Treaties/ Protocols/ Summits/ Declarations of International Environmental Law:
They are the primary source of international legal rights and obligations in relation to environmental protection. A treaty is an agreement under international law entered into by sovereign states and international organizations.
A treaty may also be known as an (International) agreement, protocol, covenant, convention, pact, or exchange of letters, among other Terms. These are the means of willing parties assuming obligations among themselves, and a party to either that fails to live up to their obligations can be held liable under international law.
In international law and international relations, a protocol is generally a treaty or international agreement that supplements a previous treaty or international agreement. It can amend the previous treaty, or add additional provisions. Parties to the earlier agreement are not required to adopt the protocol. It is made clearer by calling it an “optional protocol”, especially where many parties to the first agreement do not support the protocol.
For e.g., the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) established a framework for the development of binding greenhouse gas emission limits, while the Kyoto Protocol contained the specific provisions and regulations later agreed upon.
3. Declarations and Summits/ Conferences:
Many conferences have been convened at the intergovernmental level to address environmental issues, as well as issues linking environment and development.
They are aimed at adopting declarations, principles, statements or rules that are not binding as treaties but set the moral background within which legally binding treaties and conventions are negotiated.
The most important international conferences on the issue of environment and development have been 1972 Stockholm Conference and 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de-Janeiro Brazil.
Each one adopted non-binding declarations known as Stockholm Declaration, Rio Declaration and Agenda 21 which include important elements that reflect or have contributed in developing international environmental law.
Essay # 3. Principles of International Environmental Law:
1. Principle of State Responsibility:
An International obligation stems primarily from an International treaty, custom or judicial decision.
A state shall be responsible for:
a. Wrongful act/ omission results in the breach of any international obligation.
b. The agents of the State commit breach.
c. Wrong is committed by a private individual and, the state does not exercise due diligence to prevent the damage.
d. State responsibility is a traditional principle of general international law which can be applied to environmental wrong doings.
2. Principle of Good Neighborliness:
Every state has an absolute authority to use and to enjoy its own territory. However, according to the customary principle of good neighborliness, a state has to use its property in such a way that its action does not injure and harm the property or the legal interests of another state.
3. Principle of Cooperation:
A general principle of International law that holds good in dealing with environmental problems. Global environmental problems cannot be managed without state cooperation.
4. Principle of Sustainable Development:
Principle 3 of the Rio Declaration describes sustainable development as a tool that meets the needs of present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own.
This principle is popularly understood as the principle of integration between ecological and economic concerns.
5. Principle of Polluter Pays:
It means polluter has to pay for the consequences of pollution i.e. the polluter has the responsibility to bear the costs of rectifying the environmental damage resulting out of pollution.
This principle has special importance so far as North-South relationship is concerned. The North has a major share in global pollution; so, the South demands that the North has to take greater responsibility and pay more for not adhering to pollution abatement measures.
The North is represented by what is referred to as Annexure 1 or Annexure B (developed countries with specific quantitative commitments to reduce emissions of GHGs in climate change negotiations). It comprises of 43 countries including the European Union. Other than the most influential US, EU is the dominant group in Northern coalition.
The South is generally represented by G-77, a group of developing countries. It was established in 1964 at the first UNCTAD. It was formed with an objective to negotiate with the developed countries, as a group. It has a membership of 133 nations.
6. Principle of Common but Differential Responsibility:
The ill effects of environmental degradation will eventually affect all the countries. Therefore, all states have to assume the common responsibility for protecting the environment.
Different States bear different responsibility depending on the amount of pollution they cause. It has to be different because all the countries do not have an equal capacity to maintain the environment.
Those states which pollute more and which higher capacity should share major responsibility in maintaining the environmental quality.
7. Principle of Precaution:
Prevention is better than cure; some kinds of environmental damages are very serious and irreversible.
It implies that even where there is no scientific evidence available to support a particular theory, precautions should be taken. This principle got formal recognition in the Rio Declaration, which provides that ‘where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation’.
8. Principle of Intergenerational Equity:
Principle of fairness is that the earth is not the exclusive property of the present generation of human beings but a common endowment for the entire mankind. In the interest of future generations it is essential to use the natural resources with care without causing unnecessary environmental damages.
9. Principle of Preventive Action:
This principle requires action to be taken at an early stage and, if possible before damage has actually occurred.
Essay # 4. Development of International Environmental Law:
Concern for the environment first began to appear on the international agenda during the early twentieth century with the conclusion of a number of international conventions.
Earlier attempts to protect environment focused on conservation in general like, conservation of wildlife, i.e. fisheries, birds, and seals and to a limited extent, the protection of rivers and seas. They were mostly the efforts of private individuals, scientists and environmental organizations. Additionally they relied on the sovereignty of nation states for determining their actions.
Following were the initial treaties aimed at protecting only a few species which were considered valuable to humans, or to protect human health:
i. 1872, Switzerland proposed an ‘International Regulatory Commission on Protection of Birds’. This led to the formation of International Ornithological Committee in 1884, which formulated a treaty proposal and resulted in the adoption of the Convention to protect birds useful to agriculture, 1902.
ii. Treaty for the Preservation of Fur Seals, Washington, 1911.
iii. In 1916, the first bilateral treaty for the protection of migratory birds in the United States and Canada was signed between Great Britain and the United States.
iv. On the pollution front, the United States and Canada adopted a Water Boundary Treaty to prevent pollution and prevention of oil pollution on seas.
v. The first international institution to address the issue of protection of nature was formed in 1909 at the international congress for the “Protection of Nature” in Paris which culminated into the first multilateral treaty of its kind.
vi. The Convention Concerning the Use of White Lead in Painting, Geneva, 1921.
vii. Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, 1931.
The new environmental movement that emerged in the 1960s was sparked off by Rachel Carson’s book silent spring; the book drew attention of the world to the destruction of wildlife by the use of pesticide ‘DDT’.