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1 - Introduction: dimensions of justice in environmental law

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 June 2009

Jonas Ebbesson
Stockholms Universitet
Phoebe Okowa
Queen Mary University of London
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Environmental laws and policies are predominantly goal-oriented. Standards, principles and procedures for the protection of the environment are often instrumental to achieve, say, the conservation of fragile ecosystems and endangered species, the preservation of fresh water and other natural resources, the restoration of contaminated soils as well as the stratospheric ozone layer, and the protection of human health. This goal-oriented feature is evident in national as well as international law. It is apparent also when legal approaches to managing environmental problems are compared with economic or market-based instruments, such as emission trading, environmental taxes and voluntary agreements and codes of conduct. National statutes and international treaties, standards, instruments and procedures are assessed with these underlying objectives in mind, and mainly analysed in terms of effectiveness and achievability of the set objectives. Even sustainable development, as an overarching societal objective with obvious environmental connotations, reflects this goal-oriented conception of environmental law and policy.

Yet, environmental law also involves priorities, conflicts and clashes of interests – and concerns for justice and fairness. In fact, any drafting, negotiation, adoption, application and enforcement of environmental laws – indeed comprehending environmental law in general – induces justice considerations: i.e. concerns for the distributive and corrective effects of laws and decisions pertaining to health, the environment and natural resources, as well as concerns for the opportunities of those potentially affected to participate in such law-making and decision-making in the first place.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2009

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