Law Course Catalog

7805. International Environmental Law

3.00 credits

Prerequisites: None.

Grading Basis: Graded

Mankind has known for over fifty years that it is capable of destroying the planet through war. What we have learned in the last thirty years is that productive and peaceful human behavior is also capable of ravaging the planet: depleting the planet's ozone shield, warming the climate, flooding coastal habitats, poisoning humans and animals through exposure to toxic compounds, depleting fisheries and forests, obliterating indigenous cultures, and decimating the global heritage of biodiversity. These ailments are caused, in part, by the ever-expanding scale, and toxicity, of production by private companies. These harms are also caused, indirectly, by trans-national rules which promote the mobility of goods and capital, thereby deterring and impeding strict national and local regulation of companies. Devastating environmental impacts thus form a large part of what critics have in mind when they complain of the evils of "globalization." There are two broad approaches the world might adopt to respond to such evils. One is to try to reverse the historic trend towards bigness and return to small scale production marketed at the local level and regulated by local jurisdictions. This will never happen, for the simple reason that competition, economies of scale, free trade, and mobile capital have also brought with them economic benefits which most governments, and many people, value even more than they fear the adverse consequences of globalization. This leaves the other approach, which is to develop a globalized regime of regulation that is up to the challenge of controlling globalized capital. This course is about mankind's efforts to implement the second solution in the environmental realm, by developing a truly global regime of treaties and regulations which seeks to control the pollution, the resource depletion and the ecological degradation that has hitherto accompanied globalized trade and commerce. We will study the origins, design, interpretation, achievements, and limitations of the great treaties that have joined nations in combating common problems facing the planet: the ozone treaty, climate change treaty, biodiversity treaty, a series of international fisheries treaties, and the treaty on control of persistent organic compounds. We also will examine the the conflicts that have arisen between the goals of environmental protection embodied in such treaties, and the goals of free trade and investment pursued by the World Trade Organization and other free trade agreements. Students will be invited to explore ways to reconcile these conflicts in ways that promote both prosperity and environmental protection.