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An introduction to the many types of laws for environmental protection

Both environmental regulation and regulation designed to achieve preservation of historic buildings and districts have greatly increased in many developed countries, particularly since World War II. Broadly speaking, environmental regulations fall into two types: In the 14th century England prohibited both the burning of coal in London and the disposal an introduction to the many types of laws for environmental protection waste into waterways.

In 1681 the Quaker leader of the English colony of Pennsylvania, William Pennordered that one acre of forest be preserved for every five acres cleared for settlement, and in the following century Benjamin Franklin led various campaigns to curtail the dumping of waste.

In the 19th century, in the midst of the Industrial Revolutionthe British government passed regulations to reduce the deleterious effects of coal burning and chemical manufacture on public health and the environment.

Prior to the 20th century there were few international environmental agreements. The accords that were reached focused primarily on boundary waters, navigation, and fishing rights along shared waterways and ignored pollution and other ecological issues. In the early 20th century, conventions to protect commercially valuable species were reached, including the Convention for the Protection of Birds Useful to Agriculture 1902signed by 12 European governments; the Convention for the Preservation and Protection of Fur Seals 1911concluded by the United StatesJapan, Russia, and the United Kingdom; and the Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds 1916adopted by the United States and the United Kingdom on behalf of Canada and later extended to Mexico in 1936.

In the 1930s Belgium, Egypt, Italy, Portugal, South AfricaSudan, and the United Kingdom adopted the Convention Relative to the Preservation of Fauna and Flora in their Natural State, which committed those countries to preserve natural fauna and flora in Africa by means of national parks and reserves.

Spain and France signed the convention but never ratified it, and Tanzania formally adopted it in 1962. Beginning in the 1960s, environmentalism became an important political and intellectual movement in the West. In subsequent decades the U. In Japan rapid reindustrialization after World War II was accompanied by the indiscriminate release of industrial chemicals into the human food chain in certain areas.

In the city of Minamatafor example, large numbers of people suffered mercury poisoning after eating fish that had been contaminated with industrial wastes. Not until the end of the 20th century was Minamata declared mercury-free. Thirty-four countries in 1971 adopted the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitatgenerally known as the Ramsar Convention for the city in Iran in which it was signed.

It required all countries to designate at least one protected wetland area, and it recognized the important role of wetlands in maintaining the ecological equilibrium.

Although UNEP oversees many modern-day agreements, it has little power to impose or enforce sanctions on noncomplying parties. Until the Stockholm conference, European countries generally had been slow to enact legal standards for environmental protection—though there had been some exceptions, such as the passage of the conservationist Countryside Act in the United Kingdom in 1968.

In October 1972, only a few months after the UN conference, the leaders of the European Community EC declared that the goal of economic expansion had to be balanced with the need to protect the environment. In Germanyfor example, public attitudes toward environmental protection changed dramatically in the early 1980s, when it became known that many German forests were being destroyed by acid rain.

The environmentalist German Green Partyfounded in 1980, won representation in the Bundestag national parliament for the first time in 1983 and since then has campaigned for stricter environmental regulations.

  1. Similarly, the European Union EU requires an environmental impact assessment for two types of projects. Following the enforcement of the new Environmental Protection Act Zakon o varstvu okolja — ZVO-1 in 2004, two sizable new chapters were opened, which affect the control and reduction of environmental emissions, and the phasing-out and substitution of hazardous substances.
  2. Prior to the 20th century there were few international environmental agreements. Numerical targets set a specific allowable quantity of a pollutant e.
  3. It also prepares data for the purpose of enforcing outstanding debts arising from administrative decisions and concession fees. In order to achieve an integrated and unified system for providing the control and planning of permitted emissions, decision-making in administrative procedures has been introduced.
  4. The environmentalist German Green Party , founded in 1980, won representation in the Bundestag national parliament for the first time in 1983 and since then has campaigned for stricter environmental regulations. Federal Power Commission 1965 , a U.
  5. There are more than 200 types of procedures.

The effects of the 1986 accident at the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl in Ukraine then part of the Soviet Union were especially significant. As a direct result of the Chernobyl disastertwo international agreements—the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident and the Convention on Assistance in the Case of Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency, both adopted in 1986—were rapidly drafted to ensure notification and assistance in the event of a nuclear accident.

In the following decade a Convention on Nuclear Safety 1994 established incentives for countries to adopt basic standards for the safe operation of land-based nuclear power plants. There are often conflicting data about the environmental impact of human activities, and scientific uncertainty often has complicated the drafting and implementation of environmental laws and regulations, particularly for international conferences attempting to develop universal standards.

Consequently, such laws and regulations usually are designed to be flexible enough to accommodate changes in scientific understanding and technological capacity. The Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer 1985for example, did not specify the measures that signatory states were required to adopt to protect human health and the environment from the effects of ozone depletionnor did it mention any of the substances that were thought to damage the ozone layer.

The protocol authorized developed countries to engage in emissions trading in order to meet their emissions targets. Developed countries could earn additional emission reduction units by financing energy-efficient projects e.

Environmental protection

Since its adoption, the protocol has encountered stiff opposition from some countries, particularly the United States, which has failed to ratify it. Levels of environmental law Environmental law exists at many levels and is only partly constituted by international declarations, conventions, and treaties.

Levels of environmental law

The bulk of environmental law is statutory—i. In addition, many countries have included some right to environmental quality in their national constitutions. Some of it is manifested in arbitrated decisions, such as the Trail Smelter arbitration 1941which enjoined the operation of a smelter located in British ColumbiaCanada, near the international border with the U. For example, in Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference v.

Federal Power Commission 1965a U. Significant local decisions included National Audubon Society v. In 1983 Germany passed a national emission-control law that set specific air emission thresholds by power plant age and type. Almost all environmental laws prohibit regulated activities that do not comply with stated conditions or standards. The most obvious forms of regulated activity involve actual discharges of pollutants into the environment e.

However, environmental laws also regulate activities that entail a significant risk of discharging harmful pollutants e. For actual discharges, environmental laws generally prescribe specific thresholds of allowable pollution; for activities that create a risk of discharge, environmental laws generally establish management practices to reduce that risk.

The standards imposed on actual discharges generally come in two forms: Most comprehensive environmental laws impose both environmental-quality and discharge standards and endeavour to coordinate their use to achieve a stated environmental-quality goal. Environmental-quality goals can be either numerical or narrative.

Environmental law

Numerical targets set a specific allowable quantity of a pollutant e. Narrative standards require that the receiving body of air or water be suitable for a specific use e.

The management practices prescribed for activities that create a risk of discharge are diverse and context-specific. The United States Resource Conservation and Recovery Act 1991for example, requires drip pads for containers in which hazardous waste is accumulated or stored, and the United States Oil Pollution Act 1990 mandates that all oil tankers of a certain size and age operating in U. Another type of activity regulated by command-and-control legislation is environmentally harmful trade.

Among the most-developed regulations are those on trade in wildlife. In 1989 listing of the African elephant as a protected species effectively prohibited most trade in African ivorywhich was subsequently banned by Kenya and the EC. By this time the United States already had banned trade in African ivory, listing the African elephant as a threatened species under its Federal Endangered Species Act 1978.

Despite these measures, some countries either failed to prohibit ivory imports e. Environmental assessment mandates Environmental assessment mandates are another significant form of environmental law. Such mandates generally perform three functions: Unlike command-and-control regulations, which may directly limit discharges into the environment, mandated environmental assessments protect the environment indirectly by increasing the quantity and quality of publicly available information on the environmental consequences of contemplated actions.

Similarly, the European Union EU requires an environmental impact assessment for two types of projects. Economic incentives The use of economic instruments to create incentives for environmental protection is a popular form of environmental law.

Such incentives include pollution taxes, subsidies for clean technologies and practices, and the creation of markets in either environmental protection or pollution. Denmark, The Netherlands, and Sweden, for example, impose taxes on carbon dioxide emissions, and the EU has debated whether to implement such a tax at the supranational level to combat climate change.

In the United States, water pollution legislation passed in 1972 provided subsidies to local governments to upgrade publicly owned sewage treatment plants. In 1980 the U. The most comprehensive and complex such program, created as part of the an introduction to the many types of laws for environmental protection Clean Air Actwas designed to reduce overall sulfur dioxide emissions by fossil-fuel-fired power plants.

Laws & Regulations

According to proponents, the program would provide financial rewards to cleaner plants, which could sell their unneeded credits on the market, and allow dirtier plants to stay in business while they converted to cleaner technologies. Set-aside schemes A final method of environmental protection is the setting aside of lands and waters in their natural state.

In the United States, for example, the vast majority of the land owned by the federal government about one-third of the total land area of the country can be developed only with the approval of a federal agency.

Europe has an extensive network of national parks and preserves on both public and private land, and there are extensive national parks in southern and eastern Africa in which wildlife is protected. For example, international efforts to preserve wetlands have focused on setting aside areas of ecological value, including wetlands, and on regulating their use.