Environmental law is a complex body of law made up of global, international, national, state and local statutes, treaties, conventions, regulations and policies which seek to protect the environment affected, impacted or endangered by human activities. The most important issue at this moment is climate change. Countries have recognized that climate change presents an ever growing threat to development, poverty eradication efforts, security and the welfare of their citizens. Many political and military leaders around the world are now calling climate change the most serious threat to national security in the 21st century. Climate change has been called "perhaps the world's most fearsome weapon of mass destruction". From 30 November to 12 December, Paris hosted the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 11). On 12 December, the parties reached a new global agreement on climate change. The agreement presents a balanced outcome with an action plan to limit global warming 'well below' 2°C.
The main elements of the Paris agreement:
1. Long-term goal: governments agreed to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C;
2. Contributions: before and during the Paris conference countries submitted comprehensive national climate action plans to reduce their emissions;
3. Ambition: governments agreed to communicate every 5 years their contributions to set more ambitious targets;
4. Transparency: they also accepted to report to each other and the public on how well they are doing to implement their targets, to ensure transparency and oversight;
5. Solidarity: the EU and other developed countries will continue to provide climate finance to assist developing countries both to reduce emissions and build resilience to climate change impacts.
This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for research in the field of International Environmental Law. It provides the basic legal materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Handbooks, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Selective Bibliography section. Links to the PPL Catalogue are inserted. The Library's subject heading (keyword) International Environmental Law is instrumental for searching through the Catalogue. Special attention is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, this Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest.
Sources of international law
International environmental law treaties encompasses a diverse group of topics, including:
● climate change: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (New York, 9 May 1992), Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Kyoto, 11 December 1997), Paris Agreement (Paris, 4 November 2016), Glasgow Climate Pact (Glasgow, 13 November, 2021).
● sustainable development: Rio Declaration on Environment and Development
● biodiversity: Convention on Biological Diversity (Rio de Janeiro, 5 June 1992)
● transfrontier pollution:Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (Geneva, 13 November 1979)
● marine pollution: Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter
● endangered species: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)
● hazardous materials and activities: Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (Basel, 22 March 1989)
● cultural preservation: Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural & Natural Heritage
● desertification: United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
● uses of the seas: United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
A full list of international environmental law treaties can be found on Wikipedia. This is arranged alphabetically and also by subject.
The full text of all international environmental law treaties can be found on ECOLEX , a free online gateway to environmental law treaties; and
Treaties generally concern one of the following broad subjects: toxic and hazardous substances, nuclear damage, ocean and marine sources, ozone and protection of the atmosphere, pollution, biodiversity and the protection and conservation of species and wildlife, sustainable development, and trade and the environment. The Globalex Guide on International Environmental Legal Research provides a useful table of these subjects together with links to the agreements and relevant agencies.
Many of the major treaties have their own websites, containing convention documentation such as backgrounds to the conventions, draft articles and travaux preparatoires, convention protocols and national reports. The UN Audiovisual Library of International Law website lists the major international law treaties, and provides the full text of the treaties and travaux, together with useful introductory summaries.
UN Declarations and Resolutions
The resolutions and decisions of the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council may provide valuable information on environmental issues. Although they cannot themselves constitute international law or serve as conclusive evidence of a rule of customary law, such resolutions do have value in providing evidence of existing or emerging law. This point of view has been acknowledged by the International Law Commission.
As every Member State has been recognized and has a vote in the UN General Assembly, finding General Assembly resolutions that passed unanimously or near-unanimously may serve as an excellent starting point in the legal research process. Pay attention to the language of the resolution. Those with firm obligations versus those that are merely aspirational or advisory in nature are more likely to be considered valuable as evidence of customary international law.
→ Official Document System Search. ODS is the UN's Official Document System. You can search for UN declarations, resolutions and other documents by keywords, then narrow your search.
There is no international court for the environment. Environmental disputes have been litigated before a wide range of adjudicative bodies - global and regional, judicial and arbitral. Many multilateral environmental regimes have 'non-compliance procedures' which are typically non-judicial.
Disputes between States concerning international environmental law can be heard in the International Court of Justice (provided the dispute is between States that have declared that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has compulsory jurisdiction). The ICJ is a court of general jurisdiction that provides Advisory Opinions and decides contententious cases. Full text ICJ international environmental law decisions can be found on ECOLEX (open access). Inter-State litigation is based on the remedial principle of 'State Responsibility' or international tort law. The ICJ is only able to determine disputes between States: individuals and other non-state actors are not able to be parties to a dispute.
Environmental protection disputes between States and non-state actors such as individuals, communities and corporations can also be heard in international human rights courts such as the European Court of Human Rights and the African Commission of Human and Peoples' Rights. International environmental law decisions from human rights courts are available on ECOLEX.
- Alam, S. (ed.), Routledge Handbook of International Environmental Law, London, Routledge, 2013.
- Alogna, I., Bakker, C. and Gauci, J.-P., Climate Change Litigation: Global Perspectives, Leiden, Boston, Brill Nijhoff, 2021. [e-book].
- Andresen, S., E.L. Boasson and G. Hønneland, International Environmental Agreements: An Introduction, New York, Routledge, 2012.
- Boyle, A. and Redgwell, C., Birnie, Boyle, & Redgwell's International Law and the Environment, Fourth edition, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2021.
- Birnie, P.W. and A.E. Boyle (eds.), Basic Documents on International Law and the Environment, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1995.
- Bodansky, D. (et al.)(ed.), The Oxford Handbook of International Environmental Law, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007.
- Bodansky, D., The Art and Craft of International Environmental Law, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2010.
- Brown Weiss, E., International Law for the Environment, St. Paul, MN, West Academic Publishing, 2016.
- Burhenne, W.E. (ed.), International Environmental Law: Multilateral Treaties, London, Kluwer Law International, 1995-...
- Den Boer, Environmental law dimensions of human rights, The collected courses of the Academy of European law ; volume XXIII/1, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2015.
- Dimento, J., The Global Environment and International Law, Austin, University of Texas Press, 2003.
- Dupuy, P. and E.J. Viñuales, International Environmental Law, Cambridge, United Kingdom, Cambridge University Press, 2018.
- Faure, M. (ed.), Elgar Encyclopedia of Environmental Law, Volume V, Multilateral Environmental Treaties, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2017.
- Fitzmaurice, M. and D. French, International Environmental Law and Governance, Leiden, Brill Nijhoff, 2015.
- Fitzmaurice, M. (et al.) (ed.), Research Handbook on International Environmental Law, Cheltenham Edward Elgar Publishing, 2021.
- Guruswamy, L.D., International Environmental Law in a Nutshell, St. Paul, MN, West Academic Publishing, 2017.
- Hunter, D., J.E. Salzman and D. Zaelke, International Environmental Law and Policy, New York, NY, Thomson Reuters/Foundation Press, 2011.
- Kerbrat, Y. and S. Maljean-Dubois, The Transformation of International Environmental Law, Paris, Pedone, 2011.
- Kiss, A. and D. Shelton, Guide to International Environmental Law, Leiden, Nijhoff, 2007.
- Koivurova, T., Introduction to international environmental law, New York, NY, Routledge, 2014.
- Lees, E. and J.E. Viñuales (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Environmental Law, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2019.
- Louka, E., International Environmental Law : Fairness, Effectiveness, and World Order, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2006.
- Martella, R.R. and J.B. Grosko (eds.), International Environmental Law : The Practitioner's Guide to the Laws of the Planet, Chicago, Illinois, ABA, Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources, 2014.
- Nanda, V.P., and G.W. Pring, International Environmental Law and Policy for the 21st Century, Leiden, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2013.
- Naseem, M. and S. Naseem, International Environmental Law, Alphen aan den Rijn, Kluwer Law International, 2018.
- Rajamani, L. and J. Peel (eds.),The Oxford Handbook of International Environmental Law, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2021.
- Robinson, N.A. (et al.) (eds.), Dictionary of Environmental and Climate Change Law, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2013.
- Romano, C.,The Shadow Zones of International Judicialization, Oxford handbook of international adjudication, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2014.
- Sand, P., The History and Origin of International Environment Law, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2015.
- Sand, P.H. (ed.), International Environmental Agreements, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2019.
- Sands, P. and P. Galizzi (eds.), Documents in International Environmental Law, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004.
- Sands, P., Peel, J., Fabra, A. (etc.), Principles of International Environmental Law, Cambridge, United Kingdom, Cambridge University Press, 2018.
- Sahasranaman, P.B., Oxford Handbook of Environmental Law, New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2012.
- Viñuales, J.E., The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development : a Commentary, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2015.
Selected books and articles
- Alaam, S. (et al.)(eds.), International Environmental Law and the Global South, New York, NY,Cambridge University Press, 2015.
- Andersen, M.R. and P. Galizzi, International Environmental Law in National Courts, London, BIICL, 2002.
- Atapattu, S., Human Rights Approaches to Climate Change : Challenges and Opportunities, Abingdon, Oxon, New York, NY, Routledge, 2016.
- Borowy, I., Defining Sustainable Development for Our Common Future: A History of the World Commission on Environment and Development, London, New York, Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2014.
- Burdon, P., Earth Jurisprudence : Private Property and the Environment, Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2015.
- Christiansen, S.M., Climate Conflicts – a Case of International Environmental and Humanitarian Law, Cham, Springer, 2016. (e-book)
- Dodds, F., From Rio+20 to a New Development Agenda: Building a Bridge to a Sustainable Future, London, New York, Routledge, Earthscan from Routledge, 2014.
- Dupuy, P., International Environmental Law, Cambridge University Press, 2015.
- Friedrich, J., International Environmental Soft Law : The Functions and Limits of Nonbinding Instruments in International Environmental Governance and Law, Heidelberg, Springer, 2013. (e-book).
- Gouritin, A., EU Environmental Law, International Environmental Law, and Human Rights Law : the Case of Environmental Responsibility, Leiden, Boston, Brill, Nijhoff, 2016. (e-book)
- Gray, K.R, R. Tarasofsky, and C.P. Carlarne (eds.),The Oxford Handbook of International Climate Change Law, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2016.
- Gupta, J., The History of Global Climate Governance, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2014.
- Harris, P.G, Climate Change and Ocean Governance : Politics and Policy for Threatened Seas, Cambridge, United Kingdom, Cambridge University Press, 2019.
- Jansen-Wilhelm, S., Accepting Assistance in the Aftermath of Disasters : Standards for States under International Law, Cambridge, Intersentia, 2015.
- Johansen, E., Busch, S. and Jakobsen, I.U. (eds.), The Law of the Sea and Climate Change: Solutions and Constraints, Cambridge, CUP, 2021.
- Klein, D. (et al.), The Paris Agreement on Climate Change: Analysis and Commentary, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2017.
- Koivurova, T., Introduction to International Environmental Law, Milton Park; Abingdon; Oxon; New York, Routledge, 2014.
- Mayer, B., The International Law on Climate Change, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2018.
- Nagtzaam, G., E. Van Hook D. Guilfoyle, International Environmental Law : A Case Study Analysis, Abingdon, Oxon, Routledge, 2020.
- Olawuyi, D.S., The Human Rights-based Approach to Carbon Finance, Cambridge, United Kingdom, Cambridge University Press, 2016.
- Olmos Giupponi, M.B., International Environmental Law Compliance in Context : Mechanisms and Case Studies, London, Routledge, 2021.
- Quirico, O., Climate Change and Human Rights : an International and Comparative Law Perspective, London, New York, Routledge, Taylor & Francis Croup, 2016.
- Rayfuse, R. (ed.), Research Handbook on International Marine Environmental Law, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2015.
- Romanin Jacur, F., Natural Resources Grabbing : An International Law Perspective, Leiden, Boston, Brill Nijhoff, 2016.
- Rosenow-Williams, K., Organizational Perspectives on Environmental Migration, London, New York, Earthscan from Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2016.
- Scholz, W. (ed.), Animal Welfare and International Environmental Law. From Conservation to Compassion, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2019.
- Shawkat, A., International Environmental Law and the Global South, New York, NY : Cambridge University Press, 2015.
- Susskind, L.E., Environmental Diplomacy : Negotiating More Effective Global Agreements, Oxford University Press, 2015.
- Steinberg, P.F., Who Rules the Earth? : how Social Rules Shape our Planet and our Lives, Oxford, New York, Oxford University Press, 2015.
- Verschuuren, J. (ed.), Research Handbook on Climate Change Adaptation Law, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2022.
- Viñuales, J.E., and E. Lees (eds.), Environmental and Energy Law, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2017.
Periodicals, serial publications
- Asia Pacific Journal of Environmental Law
- Buffalo Environmental Law Journal
- Carbon & Climate Law Review
- Climate Law See also: here
- Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy
- Colorado Natural Resources, Energy & Environmental Law Review
- Comparative Environmental Law & Policy Series
- Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum
- Ecology Law Currents
- Ecology Law Quarterly
- Electronic Green Journal
- Environmental Affairs
- Environmental Claims Journal
- Environmental Law and Practice Review
- Environmental Law Review of Eastern & Central Europe
- Environmental Policy and Law
- Environment & Policy
- European Energy and Environmental Law Review
- European Environmental Law Review
- Fordham Environmental Law Review
- Georgetown International Environmental Law Review
- Global Environmental Law Annual
- Golden Gate University Environmental Law Journal
- Harvard Environmental Law Review
- Hastings Environmental Law Journal
- International Environmental Agreements : Politics, Law and Economics
- International Environmental Law and Policy Series
- International Environmental Law Reports
- IUCN Environmental Policy and Law Paper
- Journal of Environmental and Sustainability Law
- Journal for European Environmental & Planning Law
- Journal of Human Rights and the Environment
- Journal of International Wildlife Law and Policy
- Journal of Law and the Environment
- Macquarie Journal of International and Comparative Environmental Law
- Natur und Recht : Zeitschrift für das Gesamte Recht zum Schutze der Natürlichen Lebensgrundlagen und der Umwelt
- McGill International Journal of Sustainable Development Law and Policy
- Missouri Environmental Law & Policy Review see: Journal of Environmental and Sustainability Law
- Natural Resources and Environment
- New York University Environmental Law Journal
- New Zealand Journal of Environmental Law
- Pace Environmental Law Review
- Review of European Community and International Environmental Law
- San Diego Journal of Climate & Energy Law
- South African Journal of Environmental Law and Policy
- Sustainable Development Law & Policy
- Transnational Environmental Law
- Umweltrecht in Forschung und Praxis
- Virginia Environmental Law Journal
- William & Mary Environmental Law & Policy Review and see here
- Yearbook of European Environmental Law
- Yearbook of International Co-operation on Environment and Development
- Yearbook of International Environmental Law