2 Origins and development
In the development of international environmental law successive instruments and summits rarely break with the past; instead they build upon existing instruments and regulatory approaches, adding new instruments and regulatory approaches. Elements of international environmental law introduced in the early and mid-twentieth century thus continue to be relevant today, with new elements being added. This chapter emphasizes these continuities and additions and also traces the political history of international environmental law. It treats the following themes: early beginnings and continuity; from transboundary to global concerns; North–South relations; and the influence of actors other than states.
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the elite in Europe and North America established national nature conservation organizations which lobbied for the conclusion of treaties and the establishment of an international body that would promote nature conservation. Some, like the Dutchman Pieter Gerbrand van Tienhoven, argued that the international body should not be statebased but run by prominent persons, because states work slowly and their involvement can lead to complications. While the latter part of this statement may be true, international nature conservation law and international environmental law more generally attribute important roles to states.
Early efforts to put nature conservation on the international agenda resulted in the adoption of treaties that sought to conserve wild animals in colonial Africa. Relevant instruments are the 1900 Convention, the 1902 Convention and the 1933 Convention. They focused in particular on the conservation of those species that were in demand in...
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