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date: 26 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Since the early 1990s, international rules and institutions related to international environmental law (IEL) have multiplied at an exponential rate. Yet there is little evidence that this escalation of law-making activity has had a proportional impact on the behaviour of states and other international actors. Environmental problems continue to grow more acute, and the challenge of establishing effective international responses to issues such as biodiversity and global climate change seem more difficult than ever. Environmental agreements appear to vary substantially in their rates of participation, compliance, and overall effectiveness. To gain new perspectives and insights into these and other questions, many in the IEL community have joined other international law scholars and practitioners in turning to international relations theory. This article reviews the major international relations theories and their relevance to, and impact upon, IEL. First, it examines realism and neo-realism, the rise of neo-liberal institutionalism and regime theory, neo-liberal institutionalism as a response to realism, liberalism and constructivism, legalisation and international relations theories, and the common IEL and international relations agenda (participation, form of commitment, compliance).

Keywords: international environmental law, international law, international relations theory, realism, neo-realism, institutionalism, liberalism, constructivism, compliance, commitment

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