Biotechnology Legislation (PDF)
Rhodes, Catherine, University of Manchester
The way in which the international community governs biotechnology will significantly influence whether it achieves its great potential for contributing to sustainable development. Currently, sustainability principles are explicitly incorporated in only a few of the international regulations that are applicable to biotechnology. Provisions in some of the other regulations are broadly compatible with sustainability principles, but such provisions are poorly implemented.
Chemicals Legislation and Policy (PDF)
Karlaganis, Georg, University of Bern, Switzerland
Perrez, Franz Xaver, Ambassador, Federal Office for the Environment, Switzerland
In the past, criteria for “good” chemical properties were focused on qualities such as chemical stability and biological activity; environmental criteria were neglected, leading to the disastrous and widespread use of harmful chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the pesticide DDT, mercury, asbestos, and more. Since they are now used everywhere, chemicals’ benefits and risks must be assessed, and their use should be regulated to avoid repeating past mistakes.
Clean Air Act (PDF)
Nagle, John Copeland, University of Notre Dame
Air pollution has plagued humankind since early history and escalated from a local to a global problem during the Industrial Revolution. In 1970, the United States addressed the problem nationally by implementing the Clean Air Act, designed to establish uniform standards for pollutants and their sources. Although the act has helped improve air quality, polluted air remains a global problem requiring further work to ameliorate.
Clean Water Act (PDF)
Andreen, William L., University of Alabama
The U.S. Clean Water Act of 1972 sought to control water pollution by regulating point-source discharges through which pollutants reach “navigable waters.” In order to be more effective, it must be clear that the act extends to all waters of the United States, the act must continually be updated to reflect technological advances, and federal funding of municipal wastewater-treatment facilities must increase.
Climate Change Disclosure - Legal Framework (PDF)
Rhyne, Stephen K., Partner, K&L Gates LLP
Publicly traded companies in the United States are required to disclose in their filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) material information regarding how climate change and its consequences may affect their operations and financial results. In its January 2010 interpretive release, the SEC set forth the framework for determining if the consequences of climate change are material to a company, and thus required to be disclosed in the company’s filings.
Climate Change Mitigation (PDF)
Trexler, Mark C., Sustainability and Innovation Division, Det Norske Veritas
Kosloff, Laura, EcoSecurities Consulting Ltd.
Climate change is a global environmental issue of unique complexity. It has the potential to severely affect the environment, but it can be difficult to promote immediate behavioral or political changes. Current programs that address specific environmental issues, such as energy efficiency, are certainly worthwhile; however, it remains necessary to focus on climate change as a whole in order to create successful solutions.
Teisl, Mario F., University of Maine, Orono
The goal of ecolabeling is to encourage the sale of environmentally preferred products, leading to environmental improvement. It is, however, also possible that ecolabeling could lead to environmental degradation or could negatively impact the economic growth of developing countries. Though ecolabeling may have great potential, it has yet to be determined if the benefits outweigh the costs.
Ecosystem Management (PDF)
Peine, John D., University of Tennessee
Jacobs, Becky L., University of Tennessee
Franzreb, Kathleen E., University of Tennessee
Stevens, Maggie R., University of Tennessee
Ecosystem management (EM) promotes an integrated approach to environmental issues; its central goal is the protection of entire ecosystems. By focusing on an interdisciplinary solution to environmental challenges, EM can help to synthesize societal, economic, scientific, and governmental goals. Furthermore, as EM becomes part of the foundation of environmental legislation, it will support and enhance the growing societal drive to protect our environment.
Endangered Species Act (PDF)
Nagle, John Copeland, University of Notre Dame
The Endangered Species Act has guided United States law for species preservation since 1973. While some praise it for saving certain species from extinction and protecting ecosystems, others condemn it for hindering economies and allowing other species to die out. Nevertheless, it serves as a model for all countries facing the same problems and provides a guideline for preservation in the era of climate change.
Energy Conservation Incentives (PDF)
Newall, Adrian DiCianno, Energy consultant, Westfield, New Jersey
Energy conservation and energy efficiency became a public policy issue in the United States, Europe, and Asia during the Middle East oil embargo of the 1970s. Legislation in the United States was enacted to promote conservation among consumers and industry, but within several years, the emphasis turned to energy efficiency. Through the years, legislation has promoted various initiatives for consumers including tax benefits and rebate programs.
Energy Subsidies (PDF)
Fershee, Joshua P., University of North Dakota
Government-funded energy subsidies are used around the world to help expand access to energy sources and increase energy production. Almost all energy sources have received subsidies at some point. Energy subsidies play, and will continue to play, a major role in global energy policies for both sustainable and traditional resources.
Mintz, Joel A., Nova Southeastern University
Enforcement occupies a crucial place in the administration of environmental laws in the United States and other nations. It is critical both as a control on firms and individuals who violate environmental standards, and as a defense of the legitimacy of the government actions and private decisions that sustain voluntary compliance.
Environmental Dispute Resolution (PDF)
Nolon, Sean F., Vermont Law School
The question of how to implement a sustainability initiative often produces controversy, and success or failure will depend on how the dispute is handled. Sustainability advocates have successfully used valuable lessons from the field of environmental dispute resolution to capture value that hides in conflict. A focus on collaboration in the decision-making process can lead to more satisfying results for all parties involved.
European Union Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme (PDF)
Fogel, Daniel S., Wake Forest University
The primary purpose of the European Union Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) is to meet the EU’s Kyoto Protocol obligations. The trading system is one of several mechanisms that the EU can use to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2012. The EU ETS has supplied several lessons for other trading systems, including how to price carbon and provide incentives that avoid unintended impacts.
Fishing and Whaling Legislation (PDF)
Currie, Duncan E. J., Globe Law
Wowk, Kateryna M., Global Ocean Forum
Reports indicate that over 75 percent of global marine fisheries are overexploited, fully exploited, significantly depleted, or recovering from overexploitation. Management of environmental threats to whales is hampered by discordance in the International Whaling Commission. The consequences of damaging marine ecosystems are clear. A pathway toward ensuring sustainable management of the marine ecosystem must be pursued, utilizing, among other things, international legislation.
Forest Reserve Act (PDF)
Straka, Thomas J., Clemson University
Stemming from U.S. government efforts to protect forest lands since the 1860s, the Forest Reserve Act of 1891 combined political and conservation viewpoints to revise land laws to allow for reservation of valuable federal forest lands. Later acts provided for the management and protection of the reserved lands and creation of the National Forest System separate from the national parks.
Genetically Modified Organisms Legislation (PDF)
Connolly, Rebecca L., University of Sydney
The international debate over the regulation of genetically modified organisms has focused on managing the impact on the environment, human health, trade, and the allocation of intellectual property rights. There are various international agreements covering GMOs, with often conflicting provisions. The challenge is to develop unified international regulations that permit the development and trade of agricultural biotechnology while protecting human health and the environment.
Green Taxes (PDF)
Milne, Janet E., Vermont Law School
Green taxes increase the financial burden associated with activities that cause harm to the environment, providing incentive to reduce pollution. A government levies green taxes on products that create pollution, using the revenue either to address the environmental problem or for other purposes. Another way governments can continue to green the tax code is by offering tax benefits for activities that protect the environment.
International Court of Justice (PDF)
Jain, Abhimanyu G., National Law School of India University
Situated in the Hague, the International Court of Justice is the only comprehensive international legal institution present in the world today. Its cases range from international disputes over fishing rights to transboundary dam construction. Though the court has been lauded for its ability to adjudicate international disputes, some question its power to create or develop international law.
International Green Construction Code (PDF)
Andrejko, Dennis A., State University of New York, University at Buffalo
The International Green Construction Code (IGCC), developed by the International Code Council and its cooperating sponsors, is the first green building-code document to establish global regulations for buildings and systems. Many building professionals recognized the need to align growing demand for healthy built environments with the investment in building design, operation, maintenance, and use by commercial users. The IGCC places these interests on a foundation of sustainable design.
Investment Law, Energy (PDF)
Cameron, Peter D., University of Dundee
Kolo, Abba, University of Dundee
Countries worldwide have sovereignty over their natural resources and may develop them according to their own environmental laws and regulations. International law recognizes the need for modern investment treaties—such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Energy Charter Treaty—that include provisions affecting the energy industry and its sustainability. Assessing how such treaties will impact the foreign investment climate in participating states remains a challenge for the future.
Investment Law, Foreign (PDF)
Miles, Kate, University of Sydney
As multinational corporations seek to reduce costs, they increasingly turn to developing countries in order to conduct business. The way in which that business is conducted can have substantial impacts on the environment and human rights of communities within host states. The proper legal management of foreign investment can help to promote sustainable development by setting standards that protect the environment and human health.
Lacey Act (PDF)
Goble, Dale D., University of Idaho
The Lacey Act is a United States federal statute originally enacted in 1900 that has become increasingly relevant over time. Initially its stringent culpability requirements and modest penalties resulted in few prosecutions. But as Congress has broadened the act, it has become an increasingly powerful tool to combat illegal trafficking in wildlife. Its most recent amendments could significantly affect international trade in illegally sourced wood products.
Land Use - Regulation and Zoning (PDF)
Serkin, Christopher, Brooklyn Law School
Land use regulations and zoning define the limits of development on both public and private land. Traditional approaches to zoning attempt to segregate uses into single-use zones and also impose significant height and bulk restrictions on buildings. As a result, traditional zoning and land use regulations have resulted in development sprawl. More sustainable approaches seek to facilitate dense, mixed-use communities and to clear the path for siting alternative energy facilities.
Law of the Sea (PDF)
Freestone, David, George Washington University
A number of UN conventions and other treaties establish the legal regimes that govern the use of the oceans. Because of the ecological sensitivity of the seas and oceans of the world, most agreements are influenced by environmental law although they regulate other activities. Although these laws are designed to be able to be adapted to emerging challenges, they are having difficulty responding to current human pressures on the oceans.
Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer (PDF)
Jain, Vaneesha, Luthra and Luthra Law Offices
The Montreal Protocol was the first action in recognition of a global environmental problem and of international cooperation to address it. Through nations undertaking voluntary binding obligations, this treaty system has virtually halted the production and emission of ozone-depleting substances worldwide. The mechanisms employed to ensure compliance and achieve the goal provide valuable lessons for creating future environmental treaties with a view toward sustainability.
Nanotechnology Legislation (PDF)
Azoulay, David, Center for International Environmental Law
The rapid development of nanotechnology has the potential to impact society on a level similar to the Industrial Revolution. Legal systems around the world struggle to adapt to the combination of scientific uncertainty and growing concerns about potentially adverse impacts of nanomaterials to human health and the environment. Nano-specific mandatory legal provisions are emerging in a number of developed countries.
National Environmental Policy Act (PDF)
Anderson, Mark W., University of Maine, Orono
The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) was the first significant federal environmental statute in the United States. Its most important legacy is the environment impact assessment process. Scholars continue to debate whether NEPA has been a powerful positive force in improving the quality of the environment, given its lack of requirements beyond the assessment of potential environmental damage.
New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act (PDF)
Ware, Alyn, International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms
In 1987 New Zealand became the first U.S. ally to adopt legislation prohibiting nuclear arms within its territory and waters. New Zealand’s stance found support from nonnuclear countries and from civil society in the United States and other allied countries. The act, which originated over opposition to nuclear testing in the South Pacific, has considerable influence on attempts to create a nuclear weapons–free world.
Nuisance Law (PDF)
Freyfogle, Eric T., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The word nuisance, largely French in origin, simply means harm. Nuisance law, both public and private, attempts to create balance between the rights of landowners and the rights of others by limiting the uses of land and providing recourse for landowners when their rights are impeded. Nuisance law can help to promote sustainability by defining and prohibiting the harmful ecological impact of certain land uses.
Ocean Zoning (PDF)
Eagle, Josh, University of South Carolina
Through ocean zoning, governments can regulate the use of ocean spaces for various purposes, such as the conservation of marine resources. As in municipal zoning, after which it is patterned, ocean areas can be zoned for either specific or mixed use. While the creation of such zones can be contentious, examples from Australia and California illustrate that ocean zoning is a feasible, if not yet fully proven, strategy for improving governance of the marine environment.
Real Property Law (PDF)
Telesetsky, Anastasia, University of Idaho College of Law
Real property law can achieve the long-term goals of sustainability by regulating not only our relationships with each other regarding the use of land and natural resources but also our ongoing relationship with the ever-changing physical world. When property law balances environmental stewardship with the need for economic security, it becomes an important tool for attaining sustainable development.
Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals (PDF)
Sachs, Noah M., University of Richmond
Replacing a number of previous regulations in the European Union, Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) governs risk assessment and risk management for chemicals. Under REACH, manufacturers must register about thirty thousand chemicals by 2018—the largest effort in the world to collect toxicity data on chemicals. REACH aims to reduce the harm involved with some chemicals, to improve consumer awareness, and to remove some hazardous chemicals from the market.
Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (PDF)
García Molyneux, Cándido T., Covington & Burling LLP
With the aim of limiting the environmental impact of electronic products during their waste phase, the Directive on the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHS) prohibits the marketing of electrical and electronic equipment containing six hazardous substances in the territories of the European Union and European Economic Area. Similar legislation has also been adopted in other jurisdictions.
Soil Conservation Legislation (PDF)
Boer, Benjamin, Sydney Law School
Hannam, Ian, University of New England (Australia)
Soil conservation law was introduced on a national level in a number of countries in the early 1900s. It now forms an essential component of the world’s legal systems and will become increasingly important in the context of managing the effects of climate change. Despite many innovative reforms at national levels, progress toward the development of international law for sustainable use of soil has been slow.
Transboundary Water Law (PDF)
Wouters, Patricia, University of Dundee
Moynihan, Ruby, University of Dundee
Freshwater resources cross national boundaries around the globe, leaving sovereign states to compete for their use. The legal rules that govern the management of transboundary waters contribute to the fundamental tenets of law—peace, securi-ty, and human rights. International laws concerning transboundary waters also aid in the peaceful management of the world’s water resources.
Utilities Regulation (PDF)
Eisen, Joel Barry, University of Richmond
The traditional system of public utility regulation in the United States and other nations has transformed dramatically since the 1970s. New laws and policies to encourage renewables, conservation, and energy efficiency programs have changed the electric industry from its traditional focus on increasing production to incorporating more environmental values. Much more is still necessary for electric utilities to become environmentally friendly and demand responsive.
Waste Shipment Law (PDF)
Ormond, Thomas, Regional government of South Hesse, Germany
Since the 1980s, rules at global, regional, and national levels regulate the transboundary movement of hazardous and other problematic wastes. Their main purpose is to prevent the uncontrolled dumping of such waste in poorer countries where it would damage the environment and human health. Key instruments to achieve these goals are export and import bans and the requirement of prior notification and consent of all countries concerned.
Wilderness Act (PDF)
Kormos, Cyril F., The WILD Foundation
Protecting wild nature for the use and enjoyment of future generations often requires laws that prevent roads, infrastructure development, and extractive activities. The Wilderness Act of 1964, established in the United States during the Johnson administration, was the first law to establish a national wilderness preservation system and a process for designating wilderness areas. The Wilderness Act of 1964 has protected millions of acres and has inspired similar legislation around the world.
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