GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES:
The Implications For A New World Environmental Legal Order
International environmental law has been based on the relationship between independent states that exercise exclusive national sovereignty over their territories. Global change is altering this vision by causing states to realize that they are locked together in sharing the use of a common global environment. While human activities have always contributed to environmental change, it is only within the last half of this century that their effects have become global and serious, and in many cases irreversible. This has led to a growing awareness that the interests of humankind must constrain the interests of individual states. Moreover, actors other than states have become essential to managing global environmental change. These developments are leading to a fundamental shift in the paradigm of international law that is evolving in the international environmental field.
The world community, due to its increasing interdependence has required an ever greater number of important international norms. The process for creating these norms has accelerated its output enormously, to the point where both those who are charged with implementing these norms and those who merely must keep track risk being overwhelmed. Depending on how one counts, there are well over 1,000 multilateral treaty instruments, to which several more are being added each year - precisely because it is by its very nature an imperfect process. That is, not only does it share the well-known multiple weaknesses of most municipal lawmaking: it is often slow and delay-prone; politically necessary or convenient compromises may reduce the final product to a low common denominator; other distortions are introduced by special interests. In addition, the products of the international legislative process are generally speaking not binding per se, but only in respect of those...