In international environmental law principles serve to frame legal debate, guide negotiations and the interpretation and application of treaties, customary international law as well as regimes developed by private actors. This chapter considers the most important principles that play a role in international environmental law. It starts with a section on documents that have been developed over time and that provide overviews of relevant principles, followed by a section on the legal status of principles of international environmental law. Thereafter, the most important principles will be considered. The principle of cooperation will be discussed first since it permeates international environmental law and points to the varied and complex relations of interdependence that inform international environmental law (section 4.4). Principles that translate those relations of interdependence into legally relevant relations will be considered next (section 4.5). Thereafter principles that determine the diligence that may be expected of states (section 4.6) and operational principles (section 4.7) will be discussed, that is principles that, respectively indicate when action is to be taken and how things are to be done, given complex relations of interdependence.
Principles that play a role in international environmental law have been set out systematically in a number of documents adopted at the global level, besides having been incorporated into treaties. The most prominent among these global documents is the 1992 Rio Declaration. The Rio Declaration, however, is heavily indebted to the 1972 Stockholm Declaration on which it builds. Other documents that have played and continue to play...
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