This chapter deals with legal controls to address global climate change, ozone depletion, and air quality, the complexity of which problems means that many different types of approaches are necessary across a wide range of activities. This can be a little daunting at first because many issues overlap. In each of these areas, there are laws at international, European, and national levels that need to be considered. It makes sense, however, to first consider some general issues and also the international response to various forms of air and atmospheric pollution. The range of problems affecting the atmosphere stretches across the full range of human activities, from highly toxic fumes emitted from a complicated industrial process, to such seemingly mundane activities as lighting a fire, driving a car, or using spray-on deodorant. Air pollutants come in many forms, and the main ones will be discussed in the chapter.
Stuart Bell, Donald McGillivray, Ole W. Pedersen, Emma Lees, and Elen Stokes
This chapter looks, inter alia, at how international law has been used or could be used to help tackle the most significant environmental challenge of our time. This challenge is global climate change. Not many topics provide a good illustration of the importance of a globally inclusive regulatory regime focused on preventive and precautionary approaches to environmental harm—or of the problems of negotiating one on such a complex subject. Solutions to global climate change have not been easily forthcoming. The chapter looks at the efforts of the international regulatory regime to address these challenges by recourse to novel ‘market based’ mechanisms and differential treatment. An example is the post-Kyoto scheme for reducing greenhouse gas emissions through ‘nationally determined contributions’. In the end, the chapter argues, it is likely to be technology that enables us to grapple with the causes of climate change, not law, but law can drive technological change, as it has with ozone depletion and acid rain.
This chapter gives the example of the Chernobyl reactor accident in 1986 to show that nuclear power creates risks for all states, irrespective of whether they choose this type of energy. Every state, and the global environment, is potentially affected by the possibility of radioactive contamination, the spread of toxic substances derived from nuclear energy, and the long-term health hazards consequent on exposure to radiation. Whether the nuclear power industry has now attained acceptable levels of risk to international society cannot be answered in the abstract, the chapter argues, or solely by reference to regulatory standards and technical capabilities, but must take into account public perceptions of risk, as well as the alternatives and the competing risks, such as climate change. The chapter notes that for all governments there are inevitably difficult policy choices in which there are few electoral advantages.