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Environmental Law: International

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Regulatory & Policy
Environmental Law
International

Environmental concerns are not just a national issue - they are increasingly becoming global issues. Most people may think that global warming and the energy crisis are the predominant global concerns, but there are many others. These include climate change, acid rain, conservation of species, exploitation of natural resources, land degradation, land use, nuclear issues, pollution and waste management. Like many other branches of international law, international environmental law is interdisciplinary, intersecting and overlapping with numerous other areas of research, including economics, political science, ecology, human rights and navigation/admiralty. International treaties and trade agreements often directly affect environmental controls and the evolution of international environmental regimes. Students interested in environmental law should know something about the evolution of multi-national and supra-national approaches to the problems of the global commons.

While practitioners should be well-versed [...]

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Environmental concerns are not just a national issue - they are increasingly becoming global issues. Most people may think that global warming and the energy crisis are the predominant global concerns, but there are many others. These include climate change, acid rain, conservation of species, exploitation of natural resources, land degradation, land use, nuclear issues, pollution and waste management. Like many other branches of international law, international environmental law is interdisciplinary, intersecting and overlapping with numerous other areas of research, including economics, political science, ecology, human rights and navigation/admiralty. International treaties and trade agreements often directly affect environmental controls and the evolution of international environmental regimes. Students interested in environmental law should know something about the evolution of multi-national and supra-national approaches to the problems of the global commons.

While practitioners should be well-versed in the general principles of international and transnational law, many end up focusing on a specific geographical region and need to have an understanding and appreciation of that region’s different cultural and legal traditions. That understanding and appreciation can be gained in a number of ways: learning the language of the region, travel and experience in the area, and coursework, such as a course fostering cross-cultural teamwork. Although most transactional documents are drafted in English, speaking the language of a region significantly enhances a lawyer’s ability to build relationships and develop business opportunities. If it’s not feasible to develop fluency in another language during law school, at a minimum, students should develop a better understanding of their region of interest, taking courses outside the law school that offer an in-depth look into the political and economic context of that country or area.

International environmental lawyers may work in the private sector representing companies on a wide array of environmental issues or representing clients in enforcement actions brought by governmental or administrative agencies to mass tort claims filed by plaintiff groups alleging harm to public health or to the environment.

Many international environmental lawyers work in public or non-profit agencies, where the mission is to protect humans or the earth in connection with various environmental concerns, such as exposure to toxic substances, pollution, overpopulation, endangered species, etc. These include such international organizations as Biofuelwatch, Center for International Environmental Law, The Nature Conservancy and Wetlands International. These lawyers may engage in advocacy efforts to convince governmental agencies to adopt sound policies when the agencies make rules and regulations or they may also represent clients engaged in advocating new legislation or policies. Other lawyers with non-profit firms provide more direct services, assisting citizens or community groups to deal with environmental problems like hazardous waste disposal and contaminated drinking water. These public interest lawyers may also engage in press and public outreach strategies to educate people and develop public support for environmental initiatives.

International environmental lawyers may also work for inter- governmental organizations such as the European Environment Agency, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, UNEP or the Earth System Governance Project. Or, they may work in another country for government departments or agencies devoted to monitoring and protecting the environment. Almost all developed countries have government agencies that employ international environmental lawyers.

 
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