Peter H. Sand
Close interaction with national laws and policies has been the major driving force for innovation in international environmental law to the point where economists have noted with some perplexity the ‘non-ergodic world’ of environmental regimes, which is subject not only to unforeseeable natural and technological changes, but also teeming with regulatory approaches that are new, often divergent, and competing. Most descriptions of the historical evolution of international environmental law distinguish three or four major ‘periods’ or ‘phases’: the ‘traditional era’ until about 1970 (preceding the 1972 United Nations Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment), which is sometimes sub-divided into a pre-1945 and a post-1945 period; the ‘modern era’ from Stockholm to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro; and the ‘post-modern era’ after Rio. This article discusses developments in treaties during the modern era, along with developments in dispute settlement and national law, and the development of international environmental law as a discipline.
David B. Schorr
The general view of environmental law’s history is that prior to explosion of environmental legislation in the 1970s, environmental regulation as we think of it today—a branch of public law in which the regulator sets standards for activities with environmental impacts—was insignificant. Environmental law lacks a historical anchor, a back story, which is unfortunate for the historical ignorance it perpetuates. Environmental law also lacks history as a mode of argument or analysis. For these reasons, environmental law needs both heightened historical analysis and a sense of its own historical roots. This chapter sketches current, possible, and desirable directions for future research into the history of environmental law. It also offers some thoughts on why the exploration of environmental law matters.