This chapter focuses on threats of pollution to the health of the marine environment. It focuses in particular on marine pollution. The oceans constitute a large expanse of common space. The oceans have been freely used for maritime commerce, exploitation of living resources, extraction of oil and gas, and as a disposal area for waste products for centuries. The law needs to protect marine ecosystems as much as any others on land. Climate change has now begun to harm marine ecosystems and international law needs to consider this. The chapter aims to demonstrate the extent to which an international legal regime for the control of marine pollution from ships has developed since 1972, and the degree to which it has proved effective. The big question is: how can it be made more effective in the future?
This chapter studies the development of international environmental law. A significant proportion of international environmental law obligations is contained in treaties, which often provide for institutional mechanisms or procedural obligations for their implementation. There exists a dense network of treaty obligations relating to environmental protection, and to specific sectors such as climate change, the conservation of endangered species, or the handling of toxic materials. Indeed, though customary international law knows of no general legal obligation to protect and preserve the environment, certain customary rules nevertheless have been found in specific treaties, case law, and occasionally even soft law instruments. The most significant such rule is the principles of prevention, often taking the form of the ‘good neighbour’ principle. States are required to exercise due diligence in preventing their territory from being used in such a way so as to cause significant damage to the environment of another state.