environmental law


Environmental law is a collective term encompassing aspects of the law that provide protection to the environment. A related but distinct set of regulatory regimes, now strongly influenced by environmental legal principles, focus on the management of specific
natural resources , Malaysia Malaysia ( ; ) is a country in Southeast Asia. The federation, federal constitutional monarchy consists of States and federal territories of Malaysia, thirteen states and three federal territories, separated by the South China Se ...
, such as
forests A forest is an area of land dominated by trees. Hundreds of definitions of forest are used throughout the world, incorporating factors such as tree density, tree height, land use, legal standing and ecological function. The Food and Agricult ...

minerals In geology and mineralogy, a mineral or mineral species is, broadly speaking, a solid chemical compound with a fairly well-defined chemical composition and a specific crystal structure that occurs naturally in pure form.John P. Rafferty, ed. (20 ...

, or fisheries. Other areas, such as
environmental impact assessment Environmental assessment (EA) is the assessment of the environmental consequences of a plan, policy, program, or actual projects prior to the decision to move forward with the proposed action. In this context, the term "environmental impact asses ...
, may not fit neatly into either category, but are nonetheless important components of environmental law.


Early examples of legal enactments designed to consciously preserve the environment, for its own sake or human enjoyment, are found throughout history. In the
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Black's Law Dictionary'' is the most-use ...
, the primary protection was found in the law of
nuisance Nuisance (from archaic ''nocence'', through Fr. ''noisance'', ''nuisance'', from Lat. ''nocere'', "to hurt") is a common law tort. It means that which causes offence, annoyance, trouble or injury. A nuisance can be either public (also "common") o ...
, but this only allowed for private actions for damages or injunctions if there was harm to land. Thus, smells emanating from pigsties,
strict liability In criminal law, criminal and Civil law (common law), civil law, strict liability is a standard of Public liability, liability under which a person is legally responsible for the consequences flowing from an activity even in the absence of Tort, ...
against dumping rubbish, or damage from exploding dams. Private enforcement, however, was limited and found to be woefully inadequate to deal with major environmental threats, particularly threats to common resources. During the "
Great Stink The Great Stink was an event in Central London Central London is the innermost part of London London is the capital city, capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England and the United Kingdom. The city st ...
" of 1858, the dumping of sewerage into the
River Thames The River Thames ( ), known alternatively in parts as the The Isis, River Isis, is a river that flows through southern England including London. At , it is the longest river entirely in England and the Longest rivers of the United Kingdom, sec ...
began to smell so ghastly in the summer heat that Parliament had to be evacuated. Ironically, the
Metropolitan Commission of Sewers Act 1848 The Metropolitan Commission of Sewers was one of London's first steps towards bringing its sanitary sewer, sewer and drainage infrastructure under the control of a single public body. It was a precursor of the Metropolitan Board of Works. Formation ...
had allowed the Metropolitan Commission for Sewers to close
cesspit A cesspit (or cesspool or soak pit in some contexts), is a term with various meanings: it is used to describe either an underground holding tank (sealed at the bottom) or a soak pit (not sealed at the bottom). It can be used for the temporary co ...
s around the city in an attempt to "clean up" but this simply led people to pollute the river. In 19 days, Parliament passed a further Act to build the
London sewerage system The London sewerage system is part of the water infrastructure serving London London is the capital city, capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England and the United Kingdom. The city stands on the River T ...
. London also suffered from terrible
air pollution Air pollution is the presence of substances in the atmosphere An atmosphere (from the greek words ἀτμός ''(atmos)'', meaning 'vapour', and σφαῖρα ''(sphaira)'', meaning 'ball' or 'sphere') is a layer or a set of layers of gas ...

air pollution
, and this culminated in the "
Great Smog The Great Smog of London, or Great Smog of 1952, was a severe air pollution Air pollution is the presence of substances in the atmosphere that are harmful to the health of human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and wide ...
" of 1952, which in turn triggered its own legislative response: the
Clean Air Act 1956 The Clean Air Act 1956 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the Parliamentary sovereignty in the United Kingdom, supreme Legislature, legislative body of the United Kingdom, the Crown de ...
. The basic regulatory structure was to set limits on emissions for households and business (particularly burning
coal Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock, formed as rock strata (Argentina Argentina (), officially the Argentine Republic ( es, link=no, República Argentina), is a country located mostly in the southern half o ...

) while an inspectorate would enforce compliance.

Pollution control

Air quality

Air quality laws

Water quality

Waste management

Waste management laws

Contaminant cleanup

Environmental cleanup laws

Chemical safety

Chemical safety laws govern the use of
chemicals A chemical substance is a form of matter having constant chemical composition and characteristic properties. Some references add that chemical substance cannot be separated into its constituent elements by physical separation methods, i.e., wit ...

in human activities, particularly man-made chemicals in modern industrial applications. As contrasted with media-oriented environmental laws (e.g., air or water quality laws), chemical control laws seek to manage the (potential) pollutants themselves. Regulatory efforts include banning specific chemical constituents in consumer products (e.g.,
Bisphenol A Bisphenol A (BPA) is an organic compound#Synthetic compounds, organic synthetic compound with the chemical formula (CH3)2C(C6H4OH)2 belonging to the group of diphenylmethane derivatives and bisphenols, with two hydroxyphenyl Functional group, gro ...
in plastic bottles), and regulating
pesticides Pesticides are substances that are meant to control pests Pest or The Pest may refer to: Science and medicine * Pest (organism), an animal or plant detrimental to humans or human concerns ** Weed, a plant considered undesirable * Infectious di ...

Resource sustainability

Impact assessment

Environmental impact assessment

Water resources

Water resources laws govern the ownership and use of
water resources Water resources are natural resources of water Water is an Inorganic compound, inorganic, Transparency and translucency, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and Color of water, nearly colorless chemical substance, which is the main con ...
, including
surface water An example of surface water is Lake Kinney. Surface water is water Water is an Inorganic compound, inorganic, Transparency and translucency, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and Color of water, nearly colorless chemical substance, which ...
ground water Groundwater is the water Water is an Inorganic compound, inorganic, Transparency and translucency, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and Color of water, nearly colorless chemical substance, which is the main constituent of Earth's hydro ...
. Regulatory areas may include water conservation, use restrictions, and ownership regimes.

Mineral resources

Mineral resource laws cover

Forest resources

Wildlife and plants

Wildlife laws govern the potential impact of human activity on wild animals, whether directly on individuals or populations, or indirectly via habitat degradation. Similar laws may operate to protect plant species. Such laws may be enacted entirely to protect
biodiversity Biodiversity is the biological variety and Genetic variability, variability of life, life on Earth. Biodiversity is a measure of variation at the Genetics, genetic, species, and ecosystem level. Terrestrial biodiversity is usually greater near t ...

, or as a means for protecting species deemed important for other reasons. Regulatory efforts may including the creation of special
conservation status The conservation status of a group of organisms (for instance, a species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes ...
es, prohibitions on killing, harming, or disturbing protected species, efforts to induce and support species recovery, establishment of wildlife refuges to support conservation, and prohibitions on trafficking in species or animal parts to combat
poaching Poaching has been defined as the illegal hunting Hunting is the practice of seeking, pursuing and capturing or killing wildlife or feral animals. The most common reasons for humans to hunt are to harvest useful animal products (meat, fur/h ...

Fish and game

Fish and game laws regulate the right to pursue and take or kill certain kinds of
fish Fish are Aquatic animal, aquatic, craniate, gill-bearing animals that lack Limb (anatomy), limbs with Digit (anatomy), digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and Chondrichthyes, cartilaginous and bony fish as we ...

wild animal File:Manis temminckii (29645803646).jpg, A ground pangolin, alt=A ground pangolin Wildlife traditionally refers to undomesticated animal species (biology), species, but has come to include all organisms that grow or live wild in an area with ...
game with separate sliding drawer, from 1390 to 1353 BC, made of glazed faience, dimensions: 5.5 × 7.7 × 21 cm, in the Brooklyn Museum (New York City) '', 1560, Pieter Bruegel the Elder File:Paul Cézanne, 1892-95, Les joueurs de cart ...
). Such laws may restrict the days to harvest fish or game, the number of animals caught per person, the species harvested, or the weapons or fishing gear used. Such laws may seek to balance dueling needs for preservation and harvest and to manage both
environment Environment most often refers to: __NOTOC__ * Natural environment, all living and non-living things occurring naturally * Biophysical environment, the physical and biological factors along with their chemical interactions that affect an organism or ...

populations In biology, a population is a number A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and nominal number, label. The original examples are the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and so forth. Numbers can be represen ...
of fish and game. Game laws can provide a legal structure to collect
license A license (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. Currently, American English ...

fees and other
money Image:National-Debt-Gillray.jpeg, In a 1786 James Gillray caricature, the plentiful money bags handed to King George III are contrasted with the beggar whose legs and arms were amputated, in the left corner, 174x174px Money is any item or verif ...
which is used to fund
conservation Conservation is the preservation or efficient use of resources, or the conservation of various quantities under physical laws. Conservation may also refer to: Environment and natural resources * Nature conservation, the protection and manageme ...
efforts as well as to obtain harvest information used in
wildlife management Wildlife management is the management process influencing interactions among and between wildlife A ground pangolin Wildlife traditionally refers to undomesticated animal Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular eukaryotic ...


Environmental law has developed in response to emerging awareness of and concern over issues impacting the entire world. While laws have developed piecemeal and for a variety of reasons, some effort has gone into identifying key concepts and guiding principles common to environmental law as a whole. The principles discussed below are not an exhaustive list and are not universally recognized or accepted. Nonetheless, they represent important principles for the understanding of environmental law around the world.

Sustainable development

Defined by the
United Nations Environment Programme The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is responsible for coordinating responses to environmental issues within the United Nations system. It was established by Maurice Strong Maurice Frederick Strong, (April 29, 1929 – November 27, 201 ...
as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,"
sustainable development Sustainable development is the organizing principle for meeting human development goals while simultaneously sustaining the ability of natural systems to provide the natural resources and ecosystem services Social forestry in India, Social ...

sustainable development
may be considered together with the concepts of "integration" (development cannot be considered in isolation from sustainability) and "interdependence" (social and economic development, and environmental protection, are interdependent). Laws mandating
environmental impact assessment Environmental assessment (EA) is the assessment of the environmental consequences of a plan, policy, program, or actual projects prior to the decision to move forward with the proposed action. In this context, the term "environmental impact asses ...
and requiring or encouraging development to minimize environmental impacts may be assessed against this principle. The modern concept of sustainable development was a topic of discussion at the 1972
United Nations Conference on the Human Environment United may refer to: Places * United, Pennsylvania, an unincorporated community * United, West Virginia, an unincorporated community Arts and entertainment Films * United (2003 film), ''United'' (2003 film), a Norwegian film * United (2011 film), ...
(Stockholm Conference), and the driving force behind the 1983
World Commission on Environment and DevelopmentFormerly known as the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), the mission of the Brundtland Commission is to unite countries to pursue sustainable development together. The Chairperson of the Commission, Gro Harlem Brundtland, was ap ...
(WCED, or Bruntland Commission). In 1992, the first UN
Earth Summit The Earth Summit was a UN event The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, the Rio Summit, the Rio Conference, and the Earth Summit (Portuguese: ECO92), was a major Unite ...
resulted in the
Rio DeclarationThe Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, often shortened to Rio Declaration, was a short document produced at the 1992 United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that aims to maintain international ...
, Principle 3 of which reads: "The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations." Sustainable development has been a core concept of international environmental discussion ever since, including at the
World Summit on Sustainable Development The World Summit on Sustainable Development 2002, took place in South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September 2002. It was convened to discuss ustainable developmentorganizations, 10 years after the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. (It was the ...
(Earth Summit 2002), and the
United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), also known as Rio 2012, Rio+20 (), or Earth Summit 2012 was the third international conference on sustainable development aimed at reconciling the economic and environmental goals o ...

United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development
(Earth Summit 2012, or Rio+20).


Defined by UNEP to include intergenerational equity - "the right of future generations to enjoy a fair level of the common patrimony" - and intragenerational equity - "the right of all people within the current generation to fair access to the current generation's entitlement to the Earth's natural resources" - environmental equity considers the present generation under an obligation to account for long-term impacts of activities, and to act to sustain the global environment and resource base for future generations. Pollution control and resource management laws may be assessed against this principle.

Transboundary responsibility

Defined in the international law context as an obligation to protect one's own environment, and to prevent damage to neighboring environments, UNEP considers transboundary responsibility at the international level as a potential limitation on the rights of the
sovereign state A sovereign state is a political entity that is represented by one centralized government that has sovereignty over a geographic area. International law defines sovereign states as having a permanent population, defined territory, one government ...
. Laws that act to limit
externalities In economics Economics () is the social science that studies how people interact with value; in particular, the Production (economics), production, distribution (economics), distribution, and Consumption (economics), consumption of goods ...
imposed upon human health and the environment may be assessed against this principle.

Public participation and transparency

Identified as essential conditions for "accountable governments,... industrial concerns," and organizations generally, public participation and transparency are presented by UNEP as requiring "effective protection of the human right to hold and express opinions and to seek, receive and impart ideas,... a right of access to appropriate, comprehensible and timely information held by governments and industrial concerns on economic and social policies regarding the sustainable use of natural resources and the protection of the environment, without imposing undue financial burdens upon the applicants and with adequate protection of privacy and business confidentiality," and "effective judicial and administrative proceedings." These principles are present in
environmental impact assessment Environmental assessment (EA) is the assessment of the environmental consequences of a plan, policy, program, or actual projects prior to the decision to move forward with the proposed action. In this context, the term "environmental impact asses ...
, laws requiring publication and access to relevant environmental data, and
administrative procedure Administrative law is the body of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its en ...

Precautionary principle

One of the most commonly encountered and controversial principles of environmental law, the
Rio DeclarationThe Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, often shortened to Rio Declaration, was a short document produced at the 1992 United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that aims to maintain international ...
formulated the precautionary principle as follows: :In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. 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. The principle may play a role in any debate over the need for environmental regulation.


:The concept of prevention . . . can perhaps better be considered an overarching aim that gives rise to a multitude of legal mechanisms, including prior assessment of environmental harm, licensing or authorization that set out the conditions for operation and the consequences for violation of the conditions, as well as the adoption of strategies and policies. Emission limits and other product or process standards, the use of best available techniques and similar techniques can all be seen as applications of the concept of prevention.

Polluter pays principle

The polluter pays principle stands for the idea that "the environmental costs of economic activities, including the cost of preventing potential harm, should be internalized rather than imposed upon society at large." All issues related to responsibility for cost for
environmental remediation Environmental remediation deals with the removal of pollution Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into the natural environment that cause adverse change. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, h ...
and compliance with pollution control regulations involve this principle.


Environmental law is a continuing source of controversy. Debates over the necessity, fairness, and cost of environmental regulation are ongoing, as well as regarding the appropriateness of regulations vs. market solutions to achieve even agreed-upon ends. Allegations of scientific uncertainty fuel the ongoing debate over greenhouse gas regulation, and are a major factor in debates over whether to ban particular pesticides. In cases where the science is well-settled, it is not unusual to find that corporations intentionally hide or distort the facts, or sow confusion. It is very common for regulated industry to argue against environmental regulation on the basis of cost. Difficulties arise in performing cost-benefit analysis of environmental issues. It is difficult to quantify the value of an environmental value such as a healthy ecosystem, clean air, or species diversity. Many environmentalists' response to pitting economy vs. ecology is summed up by former Senator and founder of
Earth Day Earth Day is an annual event on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First held on April 22, 1970, it now includes a wide range of events coordinated globally by EARTHDAY.ORG (formerly Earth Day Network) including 1 bil ...

Earth Day
Gaylord Nelson Gaylord Anton Nelson (June 4, 1916July 3, 2005) was an Americans, American politician and environmentalist from Wisconsin who served as a United States Senator and Governor of Wisconsin, governor. A Wisconsin Democratic Party, Democrat, he was the ...
, "The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around." Furthermore, environmental issues are seen by many as having an ethical or moral dimension, which would transcend financial cost. Even so, there are some efforts underway to systemically recognize environmental costs and assets, and account for them properly in economic terms. While affected industries spark controversy in fighting regulation, there are also many environmentalists and public interest groups who believe that current regulations are inadequate, and advocate for stronger protection. Environmental law conferences - such as the annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference in Eugene, Oregon - typically have this focus, also connecting environmental law with class, race, and other issues. An additional debate is to what extent environmental laws are fair to all regulated parties. For instance, researchers Preston Teeter and Jorgen Sandberg highlight how smaller organizations can often incur disproportionately larger costs as a result of environmental regulations, which can ultimately create an additional barrier to entry for new firms, thus stifling competition and innovation.

International environmental law

Global and regional environmental issues are increasingly the subject of international law. Debates over environmental concerns implicate core principles of international law and have been the subject of numerous international agreements and declarations. Customary international law is an important source of international environmental law. These are the norms and rules that countries follow as a matter of custom and they are so prevalent that they bind all states in the world. When a principle becomes customary law is not clear cut and many arguments are put forward by states not wishing to be bound. Examples of customary international law relevant to the environment include the duty to warn other states promptly about icons of an environmental nature and environmental damages to which another state or states may be exposed, and Principle 21 of the Stockholm Declaration ('good neighbourliness' or sic utere). Given that customary international law is not static but ever evolving and the continued increase of air pollution (Carbon Dioxide) causing climate changes, has led to discussions on whether basic customary principles of international law, such as the jus cogens (peremptory norms) and erga omnes principles could be applicable for enforcing international environmental law. Numerous List of international environmental agreements, legally binding international agreements encompass a wide variety of issue-areas, from terrestrial, marine and atmospheric pollution through to wildlife and biodiversity protection. International environmental agreements are generally Multilateral treaty, multilateral (or sometimes Bilateral treaty, bilateral) Treaty, treaties (a.k.a. convention, agreement, protocol, etc.). Treaty#Protocols, Protocols are subsidiary agreements built from a primary treaty. They exist in many areas of international law but are especially useful in the environmental field, where they may be used to regularly incorporate recent scientific knowledge. They also permit countries to reach agreement on a framework that would be contentious if every detail were to be agreed upon in advance. The most widely known protocol in international environmental law is the Kyoto Protocol, which followed from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. While the bodies that proposed, argued, agreed upon and ultimately adopted existing international agreements vary according to each agreement, certain conferences, including 1972's
United Nations Conference on the Human Environment United may refer to: Places * United, Pennsylvania, an unincorporated community * United, West Virginia, an unincorporated community Arts and entertainment Films * United (2003 film), ''United'' (2003 film), a Norwegian film * United (2011 film), ...
, 1983's Brundtland Commission, World Commission on Environment and Development, 1992's Earth Summit (1992), United Nations Conference on Environment and Development and 2002's
World Summit on Sustainable Development The World Summit on Sustainable Development 2002, took place in South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September 2002. It was convened to discuss ustainable developmentorganizations, 10 years after the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. (It was the ...
have been particularly important. Multilateral environmental agreements sometimes create an International Organization, Institution or Body responsible for implementing the agreement. Major examples are the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). International environmental law also includes the opinions of international courts and tribunals. While there are few and they have limited authority, the decisions carry much weight with legal commentators and are quite influential on the development of international environmental law. One of the biggest challenges in international decisions is to determine an adequate compensation for environmental damages. The courts include the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the international Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), the European Court of Justice, European Court of Human Rights and other regional treaty tribunals.

Around the world


According to the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE), the major environmental issues in Africa are “drought and flooding, air pollution, deforestation, Biodiversity loss, loss of biodiversity, freshwater availability, degradation of soil and vegetation, and widespread poverty.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is focused on the “growing urban and industrial pollution, water quality, electronic waste and indoor air from cookstoves.” They hope to provide enough aid on concerns regarding pollution before their impacts contaminate the African environment as well as the global environment. By doing so, they intend to “protect human health, particularly vulnerable populations such as children and the poor.” In order to accomplish these goals in Africa, EPA programs are focused on strengthening the ability to enforce environmental laws as well as public compliance to them. Other programs work on developing stronger environmental laws, regulations, and standards.


The Asian Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Network (AECEN) is an agreement between 16 Asian countries dedicated to improving cooperation with environmental laws in Asia. These countries include Cambodia, China, Indonesia, India, Maldives, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, and Lao PDR.

European Union

The European Union issues secondary legislation on environmental issues that are valid throughout the EU (so called regulations) and many directives that must be implemented into national legislation from the 28 member states (national states). Examples are the Regulation (EC) No. 338/97 on the implementation of CITES; or the Natura 2000 network the centerpiece for nature & biodiversity policy, encompassing the bird Directive (79/409/EEC/ changed to 2009/147/EC)and the habitats directive (92/43/EEC). Which are made up of multiple SACs (Special Areas of Conservation, linked to the habitats directive) & SPAs (Special Protected Areas, linked to the bird directive), throughout Europe. EU legislation is ruled in Article 249 Treaty for the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). Topics for common EU legislation are: * Climate change * Air pollution * Water protection and management * Waste management * Soil protection * Protection of nature, species and
biodiversity Biodiversity is the biological variety and Genetic variability, variability of life, life on Earth. Biodiversity is a measure of variation at the Genetics, genetic, species, and ecosystem level. Terrestrial biodiversity is usually greater near t ...

* Noise pollution * Cooperation for the environment with third countries (other than EU member states) * Civil protection

Middle East

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is working with countries in the Middle East to improve “environmental governance, water pollution and water security, clean fuels and vehicles, public participation, and pollution prevention.”


The main concerns about environmental issues in Oceania are “illegal releases of air and water pollutants, illegal logging/timber trade, illegal shipment of hazardous wastes, including e-waste and ships slated for destruction, and insufficient institutional structure/lack of enforcement capacity”. The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP) is an international organization between Australia, the Cook Islands, FMS, Fiji, France, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Island, Tonga, Tuvalu, USA, and Vanuatu. The SPREP was established in order to provide assistance in improving and protecting the environment as well as assure sustainable development for future generations.


''Commonwealth v Tasmania'' (1983), also known as the "Tasmanian Dam Case", was a highly significant case in Australian environmental law. The ''Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999'' is the centrepiece of environmental legislation in Australia. It sets up the “legal framework to protect and manage nationally and internationally important flora, fauna, ecological communities and heritage places” and focuses on protecting world heritage properties, national heritage properties, wetlands of international importance, nationally threatened species and ecological communities, migratory species, Commonwealth marine areas, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and the environment surrounding nuclear activities. However, it has been subject to numerous reviews examining its shortcomings, the latest taking place in mid-2020. The interim report of this review concluded that the laws created to protect unique species and habitats are ineffective.


The Brazilian government created the Ministry of the Environment (Brazil), 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 (Canada), Department of the Environment in the Canadian government as well as the position Minister of the Environment (Canada), 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 Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, 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." Other principle federal statutes include the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and the Species at Risk Act. When provincial and federal legislation are in conflict federal legislation takes precedence, that being said individual provinces can have their own legislation such as Ontario's Environmental Bill of Rights, and Clean Water Act (Ontario), Clean Water Act.


According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "China has been working with great determination in recent years to develop, implement, and enforce a solid environmental law framework. Chinese officials face critical challenges in effectively implementing the laws, clarifying the roles of their national and provincial governments, and strengthening the operation of their legal system." Explosive economic and industrial growth in China has led to Environmental issues in China, significant environmental degradation, and China is currently in the process of developing more stringent legal controls. The harmonization of Chinese society and the natural environment is billed as a rising policy priority.

Congo (RC)

In the Republic of Congo, inspired by the African models of the 1990s, the phenomenon of constitutionalization of environmental law appeared in 1992, which completed an historical development of environmental law and policy dating back to the years of independence and even long before the colonization. It gives a constitutional basis to environmental protection, which traditionally was part of the legal framework. The two Constitutions of 15 March 1992 and 20 January 2002 concretize this paradigm, by stating a legal obligation of a clean environment, by establishing a principle of compensation and a foundation of criminal nature. By this phenomenon, Congolese environmental law is situated between non-regression and the search for efficiency.”


With the enactment of the 2008 Constitution of Ecuador, 2008 Constitution, Ecuador became the first country in the world to codify the Rights of Nature. The Constitution, specifically Articles 10 and 71–74, recognizes the inalienable rights of ecosystems to exist and flourish, gives people the authority to petition on the behalf of ecosystems, and requires the government to remedy violations of these rights. The rights approach is a break away from traditional environmental regulatory systems, which regard nature as property and legalize and manage degradation of the environment rather than prevent it. The Rights of Nature articles in Ecuador's constitution are part of a reaction to a combination of political, economic, and social phenomena. Ecuador's abusive past with the oil industry, most famously the Chevron Corporation#Environmental damage in Ecuador, class-action litigation against Chevron Corporation, Chevron, and the failure of an extraction-based economy and neoliberal reforms to bring economic prosperity to the region has resulted in the election of a New Leftist regime, led by President Rafael Correa, and sparked a demand for new approaches to development. In conjunction with this need, the principle of "Buen Vivir," or good living—focused on social, environmental and spiritual wealth versus material wealth—gained popularity among citizens and was incorporated into the new constitution.Gudynas, Eduardo. 2011. Buen Vivir: Today's Tomorrow Development 54(4):441-447. The influence of indigenous groups, from whom the concept of "Buen Vivir" originates, in the forming of the constitutional ideals also facilitated the incorporation of the Rights of Nature as a basic tenet of their culture and conceptualization of "Buen Vivir."Becker, Marc. 2011 Correa, Indigenous Movements, and the Writing of a New Constitution in Ecuador. ''Latin American Perspectives'' 38(1):47-62.


The Environmental Protection Law (Egypt), Environmental Protection Law outlines the responsibilities of the Egyptian government to “preparation of draft legislation and decrees pertinent to environmental management, collection of data both nationally and internationally on the state of the environment, preparation of periodical reports and studies on the state of the environment, formulation of the national plan and its projects, preparation of environmental profiles for new and urban areas, and setting of standards to be used in planning for their development, and preparation of an annual report on the state of the environment to be prepared to the President."


In India, Environmental law is governed by the Environment Protection Act, 1986. This act is enforced by the Central Pollution Control Board and the numerous State Pollution Control Boards. Apart from this, there are also individual legislations specifically enacted for the protection of Water, Air, Wildlife, etc. Such legislations include :- *The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 *The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977 *The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 *The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 *Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) (Union Territories) Rules, 1983 *The Biological Diversity Act, 2002 and the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972 *Batteries (Management and Handling) Rules, 2001 *Recycled Plastics, Plastics Manufacture and Usage Rules, 1999 *The National Green Tribunal established under the National Green Tribunal Act of 2010 has jurisdiction over all environmental cases dealing with a substantial environmental question and acts covered under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. *Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Rules, 1978 *Ganga Action Plan, 1986 *The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 *Wildlife protection Act, 1972 *The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991 and the Biological Diversity Act, 2002. The acts covered under Indian Wild Life Protection Act 1972 do not fall within the jurisdiction of the National Green Tribunal. Appeals can be filed in the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India. *Basel Convention on Control of TransboundaryMovements on Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, 1989 and Its Protocols *Hazardous Wastes (Management and Handling) Amendment Rules, 2003


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.” The three basic environmental principles that the Basic Environmental Law follows are “the blessings of the environment should be enjoyed by the present generation and succeeded to the future generations, a sustainable society should be created where environmental loads by human activities are minimized, and Japan should contribute actively to global environmental conservation through international cooperation.” From these principles, the Japanese government have established policies such as “environmental consideration in policy formulation, establishment of the Basic Environment Plan which describes the directions of long-term environmental policy, environmental impact assessment for development projects, economic measures to encourage activities for reducing environmental load, improvement of social infrastructure such as sewerage system, transport facilities etc., promotion of environmental activities by corporations, citizens and NGOs, environmental education, and provision of information, promotion of science and technology."

New Zealand

The Ministry for the Environment (New Zealand), Ministry for the Environment and Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment were established by the Environment Act 1986. These positions are responsible for advising the Minister on all areas of environmental legislation. A common theme of New Zealand's environmental legislation is sustainably managing natural and physical resources, fisheries, and forests. The Resource Management Act 1991 is the main piece of environmental legislation that outlines the government's strategy to managing the “environment, including air, water soil, biodiversity, the coastal environment, noise, subdivision, and land use planning in general.”


The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation makes regulation regarding “conservation of natural resources, including the subsoil, water bodies, forests located in designated conservation areas, fauna and their habitat, in the field of hunting, hydrometeorology and related areas, environmental monitoring and pollution control, including radiation monitoring and control, and functions of public environmental policy making and implementation and statutory regulation."


Singapore is a signatory of the Convention on Biological Diversity; with most of its CBD obligations being overseen by the National Biodiversity Reference Centre, a division of its National Parks Board (NParks). Singapore is also a signatory of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Animals, with its obligations under that treaty also being overseen by NParks. The Parliament of Singapore has enacted numerous pieces of legislation to fulfil its obligations under these treaties, such as the Parks and Trees Act, Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act, and Wildlife Act. The new Wildlife (Protected Wildlife Species) Rules 2020 marks the first instance in Singapore's history that direct legal protection has been offered for specific named species, as listed in Parts 1-5 of the Rules' schedule.

South Africa

United Kingdom

United States


Vietnam is currently working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on dioxin remediation and technical assistance in order to lower methane emissions. In March 2002, the U.S and Vietnam signed the U.S.-Vietnam Memorandum of Understanding on Research on Human Health and the Environmental Effects of Agent Orange/Dioxin.

See also

*UK enterprise law *Environmental health *Environmental racism *Environmental racism in Europe *Indigenous rights *International law *List of environmental law journals *List of international environmental agreements



*Aydar Akhatov, Akhatov, Aydar (1996). ''Ecology & International Law''. Moscow: АST-PRESS. 512 pp. * Bimal N. Patel, ed. (2015). MCQ on Environmental Law. * Farber & Carlson, eds. (2013). ''Cases and Materials on Environmental Law, 9th''. West Academic Publishing. 1008 pp. . * Faure, Michael, and Niels Philipsen, eds. (2014). ''Environmental Law & European Law''. The Hague: Eleven International Publishing. 142 pp. * Malik, Surender & Sudeep Malik, eds. (2015). Supreme Court on Environment Law. * Martin, Paul & Amanda Kennedy, eds. (2015). ''Implementing Environmental Law''. Edward Elgar Publishing

Further reading

Around the world, environmental laws are under attack in all sorts of ways
(30 May 2017), ''The Conversation (website), The Conversation''

External links

United Nations Environment Programme

(Gateway to Environmental Law)
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide(E-LAW)

Centre for International Environmental Law

Wildlife Interest Group, American Society of International Law

EarthRights International

Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense

United Kingdom Environmental Law Association

Lexadin global law database

Upholding Environmental Laws in Asia and the Pacific
;United States
American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy and ResourcesU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyEnvironmental Law Institute (ELI)EarthJustice"Law Journals: Submission and Ranking, 2007-2014,"
Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA ;Canada
West Coast Environmental Law
(non-profit law firm)
EcojusticeCanadian Environmental Law AssociationEnvironmental Law Centre (of Alberta)
;European Union

{{Authority control Environmental law, Environmental law schools Environmental social science Environmental protection