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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

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 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.