What Is Environmental Law?

Environmental law covers a wide range of issues, including air quality laws, water quality laws, waste management laws, and chemical safety laws. It also includes laws that promote sustainable development and protect biodiversity.


There are two types of nuisance claims: public nuisance and private nuisance. Both can result in different kinds of damages.

Human health

Human health is affected by environmental factors such as air pollution, climate change, water and food quality, harmful exposure to chemicals, and natural disasters. These factors can contribute to disease, illness, and death.

Environmental law seeks to protect humans from such risks by regulating land use, air quality, chemical safety, and water and waste management. It also promotes sustainable development and prevents environmental contamination.

Most environmental laws are based on command-and-control principles that identify a specific type of environmentally harmful activity, impose conditions or standards on that activity, and prohibit forms of the activity that fail to comply with those conditions or standards. However, there are other regulatory strategies that attempt to balance economy and ecology. These include the polluter pays principle, which holds that the economic costs of pollution should be borne by those who cause it.

Environmental justice

Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, culture, income, or education with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. It also includes the right to adequate housing, decent and healthy jobs, quality education, health care, and participation in decision-making.

In many communities, poor or marginalized populations are more likely to live near environmental hazards like toxic waste dumps and hazardous chemical plants. These risks are often exacerbated by other social and economic vulnerabilities.

EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice works to address these disparities by involving local communities in the environmental process. OEJ has also launched a number of campaigns to repair past injustices, such as the Yasuni Oil Campaign. Other projects have focused on finding different ways to dispose of waste, such as incineration.

Climate change

Climate change poses a major challenge to the environment, and environmental lawyers are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help communities adapt. They are also promoting sustainable production and consumption practices, reducing plastic pollution, and developing innovative energy technologies. They are focusing on preserving biodiversity, regulating the trade in endangered species, and encouraging conservation efforts.

Many international environmental agreements focus on the protection of biodiversity and natural resources, as well as climate change. These treaties and conventions provide a framework for countries to work together to tackle global environmental challenges. They often contain monitoring and reporting requirements, dispute resolution mechanisms, and financial incentives for compliance. They may also create an independent body to enforce compliance and promote best practices. Moreover, they can prohibit forms of pollution that are harmful to the environment or human health.

Sustainable development

The environmental law field focuses on protecting the environment and the people who live in it. It does this by setting standards, monitoring compliance, and enforcing laws. It also works with businesses to ensure that they are using sustainable practices. These include reducing their carbon footprint and producing less waste. In addition, it helps businesses find alternative energy sources.

In addition, it promotes environmental justice by ensuring that all communities have access to the same level of protection. This includes addressing disparities in environmental enforcement and promoting equitable participation in environmental decision-making. It also aims to address global environmental issues, such as biodiversity loss and transboundary pollution. Moreover, it supports market-based mechanisms that incentivize industries to reduce their emissions. This translates into a better environment for both present and future generations.

Waste management

Waste management is a vital aspect of environmental law. It includes regulation of solid waste generation, transportation, and disposal. It also involves the use of innovative technologies for better waste management. This can reduce the risk of ecological degradation and promote sustainable development.

Regulatory efforts aim to strike a balance between developmental needs and environmental protection. They also address climate change by setting emissions standards and promoting energy efficiency.

Many environmental laws have a global reach. They provide the framework for international cooperation and coordination. These agreements can establish reporting and monitoring mechanisms, and may include capacity-building support. They can also provide financial incentives and dispute resolution mechanisms.

Chemical safety

Chemical safety is a vital aspect of environmental law. It covers all aspects of chemicals, from their natural presence in the environment to extraction or synthesis, industrial use, transport, and disposal. This includes assessing their effects on the environment, including human health and biodiversity.

Chemicals can cause a wide range of negative effects on people, including decreased working capacity and healthcare expenses. In addition, certain social groups are more vulnerable to chemical impacts due to their living and working conditions.

In order to avoid these consequences, it is important to understand the risks associated with specific chemicals. These risks can be assessed by looking at their toxicity, persistence, bioaccumulation, and other properties. It is also important to review safety data sheets and container labels before using any chemicals.

Public participation

Public participation is a key principle of environmental law. It involves citizens, businesses, and NGOs in government decisions that affect the environment. It can take the form of consultation or deliberative processes, and it is often regulated by laws. It can also be a matter of ensuring that a government’s environmental policies are transparent.

Across jurisdictions, laws that regulate the environmental rights of citizens and businesses can vary widely. For example, while laws in the EU, Netherlands, and US structure public participation broadly in similar ways, they can differ in how they structure the requirement to inform and consult. The differences reflect how governments determine what kinds of participation are most appropriate for their context. They also shape who qualifies as the relevant “public.” They can also shape which kinds of participation are deemed necessary for judicial review.