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30 Harv. Int'l. L. J. 393 (1989)
Environment, Community and International Law, The

handle is hein.journals/hilj30 and id is 399 raw text is: VOLUME 30, NUMBER 2, SPRING 1989

The Environment, Community and
International Law
Philippe J. Sands*
The recognition by governments that environmental issues tran-
scend national boundaries' has been accompanied by the realization
that ad hoc and disparate responses by individual states will not solve
these pressing problems. Ozone depletion, global warming, defores-
tation, air and marine pollution, toxic waste, and the destruction of
living natural resources'are interrelated threats facing the planet. States
are now grappling with environmenial issues. and have entered into a
number of bilateral and multilateral agreements. While increased state
activity in the field of the environment has been widely welcomed, it
is doubtful whether traditional international law will succeed in es-
tablishing either an effective substantive regime or effective procedures
for protecting the environment.
The traditional model poses two fundamental problems. First, states
have generally proved unwilling to exercise their right of guardian-
ship over the global environment. Second, the notion of sovereignty
which underlies the current regime poses insurmountable obstacles
when the problems to be addressed are transnational in scope.
The accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 19862 high-
lighted the inadequacies of the applicable treaty rules and the inability
of international law to provide a method for identifying rules in the
absence of an applicable treaty. The episode also served to illustrate
the unwillingness of states to use the law to bring legal claims against
an offending state even where a rule could be identified.
* Barrister and lecturer in European law, Kings College, University of London; M.A. (Can-
tab.), LL.M. (Cantab.) The author will be a director of the Center for International Environmental
Law (CIEL) to be established in London and Cambridge, United Kingdom, in October 1989.
He is grateful to Wendy Dinner of the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Inc.; Durwood Zaelke,
formerly of the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Inc.; and James Cameron, who will also be
directors of CIEL, for their comments and assistance.
1. Because the problem is planet-wide in scope, solutions can only be devised on a global
level. Declaration of the Hague, March If, 1989, Document obtained from the Registrar of
the International Court of Justice (on file at the HARV. INT'L L.J.) (hereinafter Hague Decla-
ration]. See also Resolution on the Protection of the Global Climate, G.A. Res. 43/53, A/RES/
43/53 (Jan. 27, 1988) (recognizing global climate change as a common concern of mankind).
2. See infra notes 35-75 and accompanying text.

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