Global environmental law: context and theory, challenge and promise

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Few issue areas exemplify the centrifugal forces that prompted the emergence of global law scholarship better than the environment. With its propensity to blur or transcend conventional distinctions between national and international, public and private, and formal and informal, environmental governance offers a consummate case study to test the promise and perils of global law. In this article, we situate global environmental law in the broader debate about lawmaking and application beyond the nation state, tracing the evolution and elusive boundaries of this nascent field. Our survey allows us to identify conceptual ambiguities and missed opportunities in the literature on global environmental law, including challenges to its normativity and legitimacy. From there, however, we proceed to outline a twofold opportunity for the global environmental law project: an opportunity to enrich environmental law with more diverse and inclusive practices; and an opportunity for collaborative self-reflexivity by the scholars and practitioners of environmental law as these not only interpret and apply, but through their work actively shape the content of the law.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-435
Number of pages31
JournalTransnational Environmental Law
Issue number3
Early online date31 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2019
EventGlobal Environmental Law Symposium - University of Strathclyde, Glasgow
Duration: 4 Sept 20175 Dec 2017


  • global law
  • global environmental law
  • normativity
  • legitimacy
  • self-reflexivity


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