International Environmental Law and Sustainable Development Policy

It is clear that States and International organizations are the primary sources of international law. However, international environmental law is the impact of the efforts of non-governmental organizations and state authorities. In countries such as the United States, Germany, Japan, Russia, South Africa, Brazil, China, India and Indonesia, positive efforts have been made in establishing law and policy in the field of international environmental law. In most cases, environmental protection has been witnessed in countries where there is a guaranteed constitutional right to a healthy pollution-free environment. For example, Costa Rica, Latin America, Chilean Constitution, Hungary, South Africa etc. laws provide for the ‘right to a pollution-free environment’. Many European member states changed their constitutions after the collapse of communism and added the right to the environment as a justifiable right.

In federal states, local governments legislate on environmental issues within their jurisdiction. Laws and policies initiated by different nations and their local regions have influenced each other to develop a state practice of transnational environmental regulations. In this context, administrative and bureaucratic institutions at the state and national level have played a vital role in the creation of environmental activism.

Additionally, at the global level United Nations bodies have served as key actors in the making of environmental protection laws. For example, the role played by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund cannot be overlooked as they help spark action between them. States and pre-existing international organizations, including the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD).

However, there have been various disagreements on decision making at all levels, local, national, international, environmental issues. Although there is a comprehensive institutional framework, especially at the global level, there is no complete consensus on environmental decisions. It is therefore a challenge to establish an international environmental governance order in which sustainable development is the primary concern.

It wasn’t until the late 1980s that sustainable development made frequent appearances in international texts, first in political documents and then in binding treaty texts. One of the first agreements to use the term specifically outside the environmental context was the 1990 Agreement establishing the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Despite the ongoing political disagreement, the concept of sustainable development is now included in a significant number of binding and non-binding texts, both at the regional and global level. However, in 2012 the international community realized that the progress made at the World Summit on Sustainable Development was woefully inadequate.

Humanity stands at a defining moment in history and we need to understand that integration of the environment, development concerns and greater attention to them will lead to meeting basic needs and improving living standards for all; a guarantee for an environmentally friendly prosperous future. No country can achieve this independently, but together we can do it in a global partnership for sustainable development.

Therefore, the development and protection of the environment must go hand in hand. Governments of all nations (underdeveloped, developing and developed) should adopt a development policy that ensures pollution control. In this sense, international environmental law faces the greatest challenges to meet the developmental and environmental needs of current and future generations.

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