What is it about?

Many countries have begun to treat climate change as a separate area of law. This is because of how seriously it is affecting our lives, and how important it is that we change our behaviours to prevent it getting worse. The United Nations International Law Commission is currently drafting guidelines for the protection of the atmosphere. However, some people think that problems caused by climate change should be dealt with under existing environmental law. It is not actually that long since environmental law itself became a separate area of law. That happened in the 1990s, and people also disagreed about whether that was needed.

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Why is it important?

KEY TAKEAWAY: The earth’s atmosphere and climate is ‘transnational’. That means that – unlike other aspects of our environment – it does not have national boundaries. Protecting the atmosphere and climate needs global agreement and action. Treating this as a separate area of law may make it easier to reach that agreement.

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This page is a summary of: Climate Law and Its Skeptics: Whither Protection of the Atmosphere?, Environmental Policy and Law, May 2021, IOS Press, DOI: 10.3233/epl-219001.
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