international environmental law

International environmental law (sometimes international ecological law) is a field of international law regulating the behavior of states and international organizations concerning the environment. See: Phillipe Sands, et al, Principles of International Environmental Law (4th ed., Cambridge, 2018). Core global regulation domains include the world's oceans and fisheries management, the polar ice caps, and the regulation of carbon and other particulate emissions into the atmosphere. 

The leading international treaties concerning the environment are: 

Based on the above mentioned treaties and other international conventions on environmental protection, academics have established several principles for international environmental law, such as:

  • Precautionary principle
  • Polluter-pays principle
  • Principle of preventing trans-boundary pollution
  • Principle of common but differentiated responsibility
  • Principle of sustainable development

No tribunal or jurisdictional mechanism has been created to prosecute violations of the treaties and principles of international environmental law. However, some international organizations are mandated to advance the goals established in the international accords. Among these organizations are:

See Anne Burnett, ASIL Guide to Electronic Resources for International Law: International Environmental Law, available at:

[Last updated in May of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]