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Chapter

This chapter provides an introductory overview to environmental law including the way the subject is defined and the challenges involved in studying it. As with other chapters in this book, this introductory chapter provides an advanced introduction to environmental law containing carefully selected abstracts from cases, legislation, and academic debate. The chapter begins with an overview of the environmental law landscape in the UK and moves on to describe three different ways to define environmental law—descriptively, purposively, and jurisprudential—and why these different definitions matter. The challenges of practising and studying environmental law are explored and in the last section a framework is provided for structuring environmental law inquiry. Overall, the chapter provides a launching off point for the study of environmental law as well as a reference point for those who are studying the subject.

Chapter

This chapter provides an overview of different areas of private law and their relationship to environmental law including property law, tort law, contract law, and private law. The chapter begins by showing how the role of private law in addressing environmental problems is due to environmental law being applied law. Sections 3.3, 3.4, 3.5 and 3.6 give an overview of property law, tort law, contract law, and company law and their relationship to environmental law. This analysis shows that private law has a role in framing our understanding of environmental law and environmental problems, while environmental law and environmental problems also shape understandings of private law, and of property law in particular. The final section concludes by discussing the multi-dimensional nature of the interrelationship between private law, environmental problems, and environmental law in more detail.

Chapter

Courts play an important role in environmental law. Among other things, they uphold the rule of law and adjudicate on the legal disputes that inevitably arise. This chapter explores the role of courts in environmental law. It outlines why courts are understood to be important in environmental law, what courts are, the different types of courts relevant to UK and EU environmental law, the importance of access to justice, and the actual and potential role of specialist environmental courts. Overall, what is apparent from this chapter is not only that the role of courts is an important one, but that it is also complex.

Chapter

Stuart Bell, Donald McGillivray, Ole W. Pedersen, Emma Lees, and Elen Stokes

This chapter focuses on the complexity of environmental problems, which is one of its defining characteristics in the sense that there are often many interconnected, variable elements to the problem. It considers the interaction between values and environmental law, which involves some reflection on differing attitudes to the environment. The chapter examines some of the ways in which these values are translated into environmental principles, such as the goal of sustainable development or the Precautionary Principle; it then goes on to consider the question of whether these principles have legal status in the sense that they create legally enforceable rights and duties. Finally, it considers broader questions of environmental justice and the role of different types of rights in environmental protection.

Chapter

This chapter is an introduction to environmental problems specifically written for those studying environmental law. Understanding environmental problems is not just of passing academic interest, but is, rather, essential for understanding environmental law. A good environmental lawyer has a sophisticated appreciation of environmental problems and understands in particular how their nature impacts on environmental law and practice. The extracts in the chapter are thus not just optional background reading but are essential for understanding the subject. This chapter covers the collective nature of environmental problems, the role and limits of knowledge in identifying and addressing environmental problems, the nature of environmental values and the important but contentious role of the state in environmental decision-making.

Chapter

Stuart Bell, Donald McGillivray, Ole W. Pedersen, Emma Lees, and Elen Stokes

This chapter focuses on national law, while also introducing international and European sources. Environmental law emerges at international, European, and national levels partly because the complex, interconnected nature of environmental problems requires a range of solutions at all of these levels. Some of the key characteristics of environmental laws that help to explain both the form and function of UK environmental law are examined here. The chapter also considers the institutions that are involved in the administration of environmental law and policy. The administration of environmental law and policy is carried out by a diversity of bodies, including government departments, regulatory agencies such as the Environment Agency, and a range of quasi-governmental bodies. The focus here is almost exclusively on UK structures and institutions. An underlying theme of the chapter is the way in which administrative structures are used to encourage the integration of environmental law and policy both internally—for example, through the creation of the Environment Agency as a unified regulatory agency—and externally; for example, through various methods of scrutinizing environmental policy across government departments.

Chapter

This chapter argues that rule and principles of general international law concerning protection of the environment can be identified. It should not be forgotten that international environmental law is not a separate or self-contained field of law, and nor is it currently comprehensively codified or set out in a single treaty or body of treaties. It could be argued that international environmental law is merely the application of established rules, principles, and processes of general international law to the resolution of international environmental problems and disputes, without the need for creating new law, or even for developing old law. The chapter looks in detail at the issues around the expectations and realities of international environmental law.

Chapter

This chapter turns to issues related to fresh water. Fresh water is a finite resource and the more we pollute it, the more issues we have with its use. A sustainable supply of fresh water is vital to life. Historically, international water law was not particularly concerned with environmental problems. This chapter talks of ‘international watercourse’ which is a convenient designation for rivers, lakes, or groundwater sources shared by two mor more states. The law of international watercourses has for most of its history been concerned with the allocation and use of a natural resource of international significance, not with its conservation or environmental protection. While it can be asserted with some confidence that states are no longer free to pollute or otherwise destroy the ecology of a shared watercourse to the detriment of their neighbours or of the marine environment, definitive conclusions concerning the law in this area are more difficult to draw.

Chapter

This chapter discusses the role of international law in addressing environmental problems. It reviews the salient legal principles: the preventive principle, the precautionary principle, the concept of sustainable development, the polluter-pays principle, the sic utere tuo principle, and the obligation of environmental impact assessment. It gives an overview of the key multilateral conventions covering traffic in endangered species, protection of the ozone layer, transboundary movement of hazardous wastes, climate change, and protection of the marine environment.