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Flourishing Things: Environmental Legislation

             It is easy to enjoy being outdoors when the air is fresh, the water is clear, and the environment is clean. A healthy environment results in the provision of ecosystem services which are vital to human survival. These services include air filtration, pollination, and soil fertility. Environmental legislation protects the environment from harmful toxins and pollutants that threaten biological life. Environmental legislation encompasses rights and regulations regarding pollution control, waste management, endangered species preservation, and other issues that involve the natural environment.

             Citizen awareness of environmental issues increased in the 1960s. The demands for more effective ways of combating these environmental issues resulted in the creation of preliminary protection statutes and environmental rights. The 1972 United Nations Stockholm conference on the human environment led to the first attempt at developing international environmental law in order to champion environmental issues. Out of this conference came the Stockholm Declaration which consists of 26 guiding principles to deal with environmental issues.

              Other notable international environmental events include the 1987 Brundtland Commission, that resulted in the publication of “Our Common Future” which defined the term sustainable development, and the 1992 Rio Earth Summit where more than 178 countries adopted Agenda 21, a comprehensive plan to encourage sustainable development and protect the environment.

               According to the United Nations’ global report on environmental rule of law, 176 countries have environmental framework laws in place and 150 countries have included environmental protection in their constitutions. With most environmental laws emerging as a response to public concern, it is encouraging to presume that environmental laws accurately reflect the values of citizens in countries which have made environmental legislation a priority.

United Nations Environment Programme

Centre for International Environmental Law

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