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International Environmental Law

Updated on May 10, 2013


Danube Dam Case (Hungary v. Slovakia) (1997)

1977, Hungary and Czechoslovakia conclude a treaty to build dams on the Danube. Hungary later suspended works due to environmental concerns. Czechoslovakia carried out unilateral measures to break the treaty. Slovakia then became a successor to Czechoslovakia, and thus was part of the treaty. Hungary claimed a right to terminate the treaty, and submitted the dispute to the ICJ. Hungary said that it was entitled to because Czechoslovakia/Slovakia violated articles of the treaty by undertaking unilateral measures. The court rejected Hungary's claim. (THIS PART IS GOOD FOR LAW OF TREATIES!!!)

Judge Weeramantry, "The protection of the environment is a vital part of contemporary human rights doctrine... While all peoples have the right to initiate development projects and enjoy their benefits, there is likewise a duty to ensure that those projects do not significantly damage the environment."

Case concerning pulp mills on the river (Argentina v. Uruguay) (2010)

The court decided that there must be a balance between a Parties' rights and needs to use the river for economic and commercial activities, and an obligation to protect it from any environmental damage.

Trail Smelter Arbitration (USA v. Canada) (1941)

An iron smelter in Canada caused pollution damage across the US-Canada border. This resulted in an arbitration case in 1941 in which the Canadian company was forced to pay $78'000 in reparations. An important dictum from the case is:
"No State has the right to use or permit the use of its territory in such a manner as to cause injury by fumes in or to the territory of another or the properties or persons therein, when the case is of serious consequence and the injury is established by clear and convincing evidence."

Southern Bluefin Tuna (Provisional Measures) (Australia and New Zealand v. Japan)

Australia and New Zealand filed a request for provisional measures against Japan, alleging that Japan failed to comply with its obligations under UNCLOS to manage and conserve the stock of southern bluefin tuna.

Scientific evidence for the falling bluefin tuna stocks was not concrete; so the tribunal decided that measures should be taken as a matter of urgency to prevent further deterioration of southern bluefin tuna stock. (Think of the Precautionary Principle, Rio Declaration, Principle 15)

The Social and Economic Rights Action Center and The Center for Economic and Social Rights v. Nigeria

Two NGO's brought a complaint that the military government of Nigeria was directly involved in oil production with the NNPC (Nigerian National Petroleum Company), and that these operations were causing environmental degradation and health problems from contamination. The resulting contamination of water, soil and air had serious health impacts.

The African Commission decided that, "The Nigerian government have a right to produce oil and use the income to fulfill the economic and social rights of Nigerians; but the care that should have been taken which would have protected the rights of the victims was not taken."

Treaties and Legislation

There are three key periods of international environmental law:

1st Period (40's and 50's)

Characterized by piecemeal and reactive responses. Examples include:

1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling

1954 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of Sea by Oil

2nd Period (70's)

Blooming of regional and global treaty-making. An example is:

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species 1973

3rd Period (90's)

Holistic approach to environmental protection. Examples include:

Rio Declaration on Environment and Development 1992

Framework Convention on Climate Change 1992


Stockholm Declaration on Human Environment 1972

Vienna Convention for the Protection of the O-Zone layer 1985

Protocol On Environmental Protection to the Arctic Treaty 1991

UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) signed 1984, ef. 1994

Kyoto Protocol 1998

Amazon Declaration 1999

UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007


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    • Marsden4 profile image

      Marsden4 4 years ago from UK

      Thanks Vertualit!

      It isn't finished yet though! Haha, I accidently published the wrong hub!

    • vertualit profile image

      Abdus Salam 4 years ago from Bangladesh

      Excellent hub. thanks