International environmental law is often dealt with in a number of LLB modules from environmental law itself to public international law. It is also often dealt with in a more focused way in postgraduate LLM courses. Read this article to find out more.

What Is International Environmental Law?

International environmental law is in place to help protect the environment globally. Most often this protection is carried out through bilateral or multilateral international agreements or treaties between states.

The law has progressed hugely since its inception in the 1950s and 60s as states became aware that there was a real need for a multi-national solution to global environmental stresses.

Focusing on the international aspect of environmental policy is incredibly important as it is vital that the international community accepts the interdependence of the global environment and finds a way to work together to develop an efficient response to environmental issues.

The international aspect more specifically can deal with state responsibility for the following, amongst others:

  • Environmental damage
  • Issues regarding marine and global sea life 
  • Climate change protection
  • Protection of the ozone layer
  • Environmental and sustainable trade
  • Armed conflict including potential nuclear damage

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International Environmental Law Legislation

International environmental law has been developed throughout the years through pieces of international law which may have arisen simply out of common usage, international treaties and judicial decisions from international courts and tribunals.

The major legislation in terms of international environmental law exists within United Nations Declarations. Examples include, amongst others, the Stockholm (1972) and the Rio (1992) Declaration. Respectively, these dealt with preserving the human environment and outlined a guide for future sustainable development.

There are also hundreds of bilateral and multilateral environmental treaties creating states’ rights and obligations. Examples of such treaties include the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

How to Become an International Environmental Lawyer

If you want to place yourself right at the centre of all the fast-moving issues dealt with under international environmental law, you can apply for roles in relevant organisations (specified below). There are both internships and full positions available within the UNEP, for example. This is would be particularly attractive for those interested in working and living abroad.

To qualify the normal route applies:

  •  you must obtain a qualifying law degree or alternative degree followed by the Graduate Diploma in Law./li>
  • you must successfully complete the Legal Practice Course and a Training Contract (or the Solicitors Qualifying Exam post 2021).

Alternatively, you could pursue a career in environmental consultancy. This requires a good working knowledge of the law but does not require any specific legal training. Consultancy work is more technical and therefore, might be suited to those more interested in the practical implementation of laws.

Who Deals with Environmental Issues?

To enter the field, you should look for opportunities in the following organisations as well as law firms which specialise in the field.

  • World Nature Organisation
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  • Global Environment Facility
  • Earth System Governance Project
  • Green Peace
  • European Union

Relevant Books

For further reading into international environmental law, have a look at our recommended books below.

NameAuthor(s)Price (Approximate)
International Environmental LawPierre-Marie Dupuy & Jorge E Vinuales£23
Routledge Handbook of International Environmental LawAlam, Jahid, Chowdury & Techera£42
International Marine Environmental Law and PolicyDaud Hassan, Saiful Karim£29
Art and Craft of International Environmental LawDaniel Bodansky£36
The Oxford Handbook of International Environmental LawDaniel Bodansky, Jutta Brunnee and Ellen Hey£43

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