3 Evolving insights about what is at stake
This chapter traces how insights about what ought to be addressed by international environmental law have evolved over time and how these insights have affected the content of contemporary instruments and regulatory approaches. The focus in this chapter will be on how international environmental law has evolved since roughly the 1970s. As section 2.2.1 illustrates, the insight that species and habitats may require protection emerged at around the turn of the nineteenth century. As of the 1940s, and especially since the 1960s, the insight emerged that polluting substances should be kept out of the environment, or at least that their presence in the environment should be limited. Since roughly the 1970s, this insight started to leave its mark on international environmental law. Initially the focus was on the development of regulatory regimes that address inputs of polluting substances into the environment. More recently the focus also has been on the development of regimes that address trade in hazardous substances. Even more recently, the insight that we need to focus on ecosystems and ecosystem-based governance approaches has also emerged and started to influence international environmental law. Furthermore, the insight that we may be living in an epoch, referred to as the Anthropocene, where humans are influencing the Earth’s systems such as the ozone layer and the climate system poses new challenges for contemporary international environmental law.
This chapter treats the following themes: responding to and preventing accidental pollution; responding to and preventing operational pollution; addressing trade in hazardous substances;...
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