Professor of Public International Law

MA, BCL, LLD, Barrister
View my full research profile

  • Tel: +44 (0)131 650 2019
  • Email: Alan.Boyle@ed.ac.uk
  • Office hours for current students:
    Thursdays 3pm-4pm

Biography

Alan Boyle specialises in Public International Law. Educated at Oxford University, he has also taught at the University of London (Queen Mary College); University of Texas Law School; William and Mary College Law School, Virginia; the University of Paris (Paris II & X), and LUISS in Rome. He was General Editor of the International and Comparative Law Quarterly from 1998 until 2006.

He is a barrister and practises occasionally in the International Court of Justice and other international tribunals, mainly in enviromental and law of the sea cases.

Research Interests

His research interests include international environmental law, the law of the sea, the law of treaties, international law-making and the settlement of international disputes. He welcomes enquiries from students interested in undertaking an M.Phil or Ph.D in any of these fields.

Websites

Professor Alan Boyle's Homepage at Edinburgh Law School

Courses Taught

Fundamental Issues in International Law (LLM) (Course Organiser)

International Climate Change Law (LLM) (Course Organiser)

International Environmental Law (LLM) (Course Organiser)

International Law of the Sea (LLM)

International Law 1 (Ordinary)

PhD Supervisees

Snjólaug Árnadóttir  'The Effect of Changing Circumstances on Maritime Limits and Maritime Boundaries'

Justine Bendel  'Role of International Courts and Tribunals in Environmental Disputes'

Beatriz de Sousa Fernandes  'A legal study of Marine Protected Areas in the context of International Environmental Law'

Dawoon Jung  'A study on International regulations of offshore energy activities'

Ruby Moynihan  'The contribution of the UNECE Water Regime to environmental protection and equity in international water law'

Books and Reports

Alan Boyle, James Crawford, Annex A Opinion:: Referendum on the Independence of Scotland - International Law Aspects, (UK Government, 2013)

Alan Boyle, Catherine Redgwell, Patricia Birnie, International Law and the Environment, (Oxford University Press, 2009)
Abstract: Coverage that provides a thorough grounding in the underlying principles with the added benefit of incisive criticism and commentaryClear introductions and conclusions to chapters ensure students are guided through the subject and focus on the key issuesWith detailed endnotes and a thorough bibliography the book offers a platform to a wealth of references to wider academic sources for advanced study and researchNew to this editionIncreased coverage of Genetically Modified Organisms and biotechnologyExtended analysis of ethics and the environmentNew material on the International Maritime Organisation and Non Governmental OrganisationsIncreased use of sub-headings and summariesAs conservation of the environment plays an increasingly important role within society, International Law and the Environment continues to be the essential read for students and practioners alike. International Law and the Environment, whilst remaining rooted within the substantive law, places legislation on the protection of the environment firmly at the core of its current context. Written by three of the foremost experts in this field, the authors employ sharp and thorough analysis of the laws, allowing them to share their extensive knowledge and experience with the reader. The authors provide a unique perspective on the implications of International regulation, promoting a wider understanding of the pertinent issues impacting upon the law.This edition features extended treatment of Genetically Modified Organisms and biotechnology as well as the implications of ethics and the environment. It also benefits from new material covering the role of the International Maritime Organisation and Non-Governmental Organisations, which continue to grow in their influence over legislative provisions. These revisions ensure that not only does International Law and the Environment remain at the forefront of developments but continues to provide the most complete coverage of the growing subject of environmental law.Readership: Final year undergraduate students, postgraduates and Phd students of international and environmental law.

Alan Boyle, Christine Chinkin, The Making of International Law, (Oxford University Press, 2007)
Abstract: This is a study of the principal negotiating processes and law-making tools through which contemporary international law is made. It does not seek to give an account of the traditional - and untraditional - sources and theories of international law, but rather to identify the processes, participants and instruments employed in the making of international law. It accordingly examines some of the mechanisms and procedures whereby new rules of law are created or old rules are amended or abrogated. It concentrates on the UN, other international organisations, diplomatic conferences, codification bodies, NGOs, and courts. Every society perceives the need to differentiate between its legal norms and other norms controlling social, economic and political behaviour. But unlike domestic legal systems where this distinction is typically determined by constitutional provisions, the decentralised nature of the international legal system makes this a complex and contested issue. Moreover, contemporary international law is often the product of a subtle and evolving interplay of law-making instruments, both binding and non-binding, and of customary law and general principles. Only in this broader context can the significance of so-called 'soft law' and multilateral treaties be fully appreciated. An important question posed by any examination of international law-making structures is the extent to which we can or should make judgments about their legitimacy and coherence, and if so in what terms. Put simply, a law-making process perceived to be illegitimate or incoherent is more likely to be an ineffective process. From this perspective, the assumption of law-making power by the UN Security Council offers unique advantages of speed and universality, but it also poses a particular challenge to the development of a more open and participatory process observable in other international law-making bodies.

Alan Boyle, Andrea Loux, Hector MacQueen, Christopher Himsworth, Human Rights and Scots Law: Comparative Perspectives on the Incorporation of the ECHR, (Hart Publishing, 2002)
Abstract: Essays analysing the impact of the Human Rights Act 1998 in Scots law, with comparative reference to other systems. Includes essays on the Human Rights Act and Scotland Act, human rights and the law of crime, property, employment, family and private life.

Alan Boyle, Michael Bowman, Environmental Damage in International and Comparative Law: Problems of Definition and Valuation, (Oxford University Press, 2002)
Abstract: This study considers the problems of defining and valuing 'environmental damage' from the perspective of international and comparative law. The need for a broad and systematic evaluation of this issue is illustrated by the number of topics presently on the international law-making agenda to which it is relevant, including the UN Compensation Commission's decisions on compensation for environmental losses suffered by Kuwait in the Gulf War, nuclear and oil pollution liability regimes, the development of an environmental liability protocol to the Antarctic Treaty and other agreements on bio-safety and genetically modified organisms. It is thus an important element in contemporary efforts to strengthen legal remedies for environmental harm which does not necessarily come within traditional categories of legally protected personal or property rights. The contributors include experts in national and international law, civil and common law, as well as in the laws of developed and developing states, an economist and a member of the UN Compensation Commission.

Alan Boyle, Patricia Birnie, International Law and the Environment, (Oxford University Press, 2002)

Alan Boyle, David Freestone, International Law and Sustainable Development: Past Achievements and Future Challenges, (Oxford University Press, 1999)
Abstract: International Law and Sustainable Development: Past Achievements and Future Challenges is a collection of essays that cover some of the most important contemporary issues in contemporary law relating to sustainable development, the utilization of natural resources, and the protection of the environment. Written by well-known experts on these topics who include judges of the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea; legal advisers from international organizations such as the World Bank, the International Maritime Organization, and the Food and Agriculture Organization; and practitioners of international law, as well as some of the leading scholars writing on international environmental law and related subjects this book covers many of the major legal developments that have taken place since the United Nations Conference on Environmental Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The contributors bring new perspectives on sustainable development as a legal principle, the role of the International Law Commission in codifying international environmental law, the protection of the marine environment following the entry into force of the 1982 UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, and the revolution in international fisheries law. The editors have ensured that the book covers a wide range of topics from Antarctica to small whales and the book will be of particular interest to those teaching or practising law of the sea and international environmental law.

Alan Boyle, Michael R. Anderson, Human Rights Approaches to Environmental Protection, (Oxford University Press, 1996)
Abstract: This collection of essays explores links between the environment and human rights, and responds to the growing debate among activists, lawyers, academics and policy-makers on the legal status of environmental rights in both international and domestic law, and on the proposals for a human right to a satisfactory environment. The collection is an original and timely contribution to the existing literature on this subject, and offers a sustained analysis which addresses both the conceptual and practical problems of environmental rights. The conceptual dimensions are particularly rich, raising fundamental questions concerning the human/environment relationship as well as more general issues regarding the form, content and limitations of international and domestic human rights law. The first part of the book deals mainly with the protection of the environment in international human rights law and EC law, while part two concentrates on problems and experience in developing countries, some of which have already incorporated environmental rights and international constitutional law and from which a growing jurisprudence has emerged. This is where at present human rights approaches seem to be of greatest value. Each chapter is written by an author well qualified in the field. The volume will have a wide appeal to anyone interested in environmental law and human rights.

Alan Boyle, Patricia Birnie, Basic Documents on International Law and the Environment, (Clarendon Press, 1995)
Abstract: "Basic Documents on International Law" offers an authoritative and wide-ranging selection of key documents in this area of law and provides students and scholars with a companion to the authors' textbook "International Law and the Environment". The editors have compiled a collection which includes all the major treaties and other legal instruments relevant to the protection of the environment in international law. Topics covered include the codification and development of international environmental law, marine pollution, the protection of the atmosphere, nuclear risks, control of hazardous substances, and international watercourses. Each text is preceded by a short introduction by the editors, who are both leading scholars in the field.

Articles

Alan Boyle, James Harrison, 'Judicial Settlement of International Environmental Disputes: Current Problems', (2013), Journal of International Dispute Settlement, Vol 4, pp 245-76
Abstract: Muddling through might be one way to describe the present state of international environmental litigation. The fragmented character of international environmental law results in significant jurisdictional problems whatever forum is chosen, but the solutions are far from obvious. When it comes to evidence and proof, all the systems examined here accept that environmental cases are to some degree special, but there is no consensus on how to handle them. Even public interest environmental litigation, a widely accepted concept in other legal systems, becomes more questionable when replicated in international law, where alternative forms of dispute resolution are available. Is the answer to create a specialist international environmental court? The idea receives little support in academic writing, and appeals only to activists. Despite the problems examined here, the existing structure of international courts has much to commend it. Rather than indulge in radical reform, it seems better to identify more modest changes that would make the present ad hoc system a better vehicle for the settlement of environmental disputes.

Alan Boyle, 'Human Rights and the Environment: Where Next?', (2012), European Journal of International Law, Vol 23, pp 613-42
Abstract: The relationship between human rights and environmental protection in international law is far from simple or straightforward. A new attempt to codify and develop international law on this subject was initiated by the UNHRC in 2011. What can it say that is new or that develops the existing corpus of human rights law? Three obvious possibilities are explored in this article. First, procedural rights are the most important environmental addition to human rights law since the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. Any attempt to codify the law on human rights and the environment would necessarily have to take this development into account. Secondly, a declaration or protocol could be an appropriate mechanism for articulating in some form the still controversial notion of a right to a decent environment. Thirdly, the difficult issue of extra-territorial application of existing human rights treaties to transboundary pollution and global climate change remains unresolved. The article concludes that the response of human rights law – if it is to have one – needs to be in global terms, treating the global environment and climate as the common concern of humanity.

Alan Boyle, 'International Law and Liability for Catastrophic Environmental Damage ', (2011), Proceedings of the American Society of International Law, Vol 105, pp 423-427

Alan Boyle, 'Developments in the International Law of Environmental Impact Assessment ', (2011), Review of European Community and International Environmental Law, Vol 20, pp 227-31

Alan Boyle, 'Human Rights or Environmental Rights?: A Reassessment', (2008), Fordham Environmental Law Review, Vol 18, pp 471-511
Abstract: Should we continue to think about human rights and the environment within the existing framework of human rights law in which the protection of humans is the central focus - essentially a greening of the rights to life, private life and property - or has the time come to talk directly about environmental rights - in other words to have the environment itslef protected? Should we transcend the anthropocentric in favour of the ecocentric?

Alan Boyle, 'The Environmental Jurisprudence of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ', (2007), The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law, Vol 22, pp 369-381
Abstract: This presentation starts out with an overview of the environmental jurisprudence of international tribunals and courts in the last decade. The author then examines the jurisprudence of the ITLOS and considers four issues that have arisen: the precautionary principle; environmental impact assessment; environmental co-operation; and jurisdiction over marine environmental disputes. Concluding, he asks what the jurisprudence tells us about the Tribunal's role in the LOSC dispute settlement system. First, the Tribunal's provisional measures cases have established the utility of the Article 290 procedure as a means of protecting the rights of other States but also the marine environment in general. Second, there is evidence in the case law of a desire to settle disputes between the parties in a way that contributes to the development of a consistent jurisprudence and of a willingness to interpret and apply Part XII of the Convention in accordance with the contemporary state of international environmental law. The Tribunal's record on marine environmental disputes is a positive one.

Alan Boyle, 'EU Unilateralism and the Law of the Sea ', (2006), The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law, Vol 21, pp 15-31

Alan Boyle, 'A World Environment Organization. Edited by Frank Biermann and Steffen Bauer...Sustainable Development Law: Principles, Practices and Prospects. Edited by Marie-Claire Cordonnier Seggar...International Law and Sustainable Development: Principles and Practice. Edited by Nico Schrijver and Friedl Weiss. ', (2006), Journal of Environmental Law, Vol 18, pp 323-25

Alan Boyle, 'Further Development of the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention: Mechanisms for Change', (2005), International and Comparative Law Quarterly, Vol 54, pp 563-84

Alan Boyle, 'Globalising Environmental Liability: The Interplay of National and International Law', (2005), Journal of Environmental Law, Vol 17, pp 3-26
Abstract: Principles concerning liability for environmental damage are surprisingly underdeveloped in international law. Some countries consider that no development of existing law is needed because the issue has been adequately deal with under the International Law Commission’s articles on State Responsibility. Nevertheless, some 27 years ago, the Commission embarked on developing a set of specific principles. For reasons of political pragmatism rather than legal principle, the latest draft proposals of the ILC published last year have rejected strict liability in favour of loss allocation amongst different actors. The core principles of the proposals are critically assessed against the background of other international and regional initiatives concerning environmental liability. The ILC has been cautious rather than radical in its approach, perhaps understandably building on and consolidating existing modern developments in civil liability treaties. Nevertheless, access to justice based on prompt and adequate compensation is core to the proposals, and the failure to make this an obligatory requirement represents a potentially fatal weakness.

Alan Boyle, 'State Responsibility for Transboundary Air Pollution in International Law. By Phoebe Okowa ', (2002), Journal of Environmental Law, Vol 14, pp 264-66

Alan Boyle, 'Some Reflections on the Relationship of Treaties and Soft Law ', (1999), International and Comparative Law Quarterly, Vol 48, pp 901-13

Alan Boyle, 'Problems of Compulsory Jurisdiction and the Settlement of Disputes Relating to Straddling Fish Stocks ', (1999), The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law, Vol 14, pp 1-25
Abstract: Modern fisheries law has for some time recognised the special interest of coastal states in the management of high seas fisheries. It has been slower to acknowledge a comparable interest on the part of high seas fishing states in the conservation and management of EEZ stocks by coastal states. This imbalance of rights and obligations between these two groups of states continues to be reflected in the fisheries articles of the 1982 UNCLOS and in the 1995 Agreement on Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. Much of the Law of the Sea Convention is about balancing the interests of different groups of states, and maintaining that balance is one of the reasons for adopting the principle of compulsory binding dispute settlement of disputes in Part XV of the Convention. Disputes about straddling fish stocks are necessarily disputes about the balance between coastal and high seas fishing states, and more generally, about the interest of the international community in sustainable management of stocks. Despite the significant changes which the 1995 Agreement makes to the substantive UNCLOS fisheries law, it remains far from clear that disputes concerning coastal state overfishing or inadequate management of straddling stocks within its own EEZ can be the subject of any form of binding process initiated by another fishing state or entity, even if there is a serious impact on the viability of stocks in other EEZs or on the high seas beyond national jurisdiction. But while coastal states and high seas states may have unequal rights and obligations with regard to fisheries access and management, they do have an equal interest in access to dispute settlement options. Both share a need for authoritative interpretation of difficult and complex texts; in both cases, compulsory dispute settlement may be required in the event of failure to reach agreement on the management of shared access to straddling stocks

Alan Boyle, 'Nico Schrijver, Sovereignty over Natural Resources (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997) ', (1999), Edinburgh Law Review, Vol 3, pp 112-13

Alan Boyle, 'The Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros Case: New Wine Old Bottles? ', (1997), Yearbook of International Environmental Law, Vol 8, pp 13-20

Alan Boyle, 'Dispute Settlement and the Law of the Sea Convention: Problems of Fragmentation and Jurisdiction', (1997), International and Comparative Law Quarterly, Vol 46, pp 37-54

Chapters

Alan Boyle, 'Human Rights and the Environment Where Next?' in Ben Boer (ed.) Environmental Law Dimensions of Human Rights (Oxford University Press 2015)
Abstract: The relationship between human rights and environmental protection in international law is far from straightforward. A new attempt to codify and develop international law on this subject was initiated by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011. The chapter explores three possibilities for codification and progressive development: Procedural rights are the most important environmental addition to human rights law since the 1992 Rio Declaration, and any attempt at codification must take this into account. Second, there is a case for articulating a right to a decent environment in substantive terms, but it should be located within the framework of economic and social rights. Third, the extra-territorial application of existing human rights treaties to transboundary pollution and global climate change remains unresolved. If human rights law is to address such issues it needs to treat the global environment and climate change as the common concern of humanity.

Alan Boyle, 'Outer Space and International Environmental Law ' in Stephan Hobe, Steven Freeland (ed.) In Heaven as on Earth? The Interaction of Public International Law on the Legal Regulation of Outer Space: (Institute of Air and Space Law of the University of Cologne / Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. German Aerospace Center 2013) 357-82

Alan Boyle, Kasey McCall-Smith, 'Transparency in International Law-Making ' in Andrea Bianchi, Anne Peters (ed.) Transparency in International Law (Cambridge University Press 2013) 419-35

Alan Boyle, 'International Law-making Towards a New Role for the Security Council?' in Antonio Cassese (ed.) Realizing Utopia (Oxford University Press 2012) 72-84
Abstract: Climate change represents one of the greatest challenges to international lawmaking the UN has ever faced. It is politically unrealistic to set up a new environmental organization and, on the other hand, the process frequently resorted to in the field of environmental law, namely inclusive consensus, is frequently unattainable. A possible alternative may lie in asking the UN Security Council to legislate on the matter, under its general power to deal with questions relating to the maintenance of peace and security. At present it is questionable whether the unreformed Security Council can be said to have the right process to make itself legitimate as a lawmaking body. Whether viewed in terms of accountability, participation, procedural fairness or transparency of decision-making, it remains a seriously deficient vehicle for the exercise of legislative competence. Nevertheless, this authority could be given to the Council subject to the condition that the involvement and the approval of the General Assembly would be required. Security Council resolutions should be debated and adopted in the General Assembly first, before giving them binding force in the Council. It would also be necessary to maintain and enhance deliberative and transparent processes in both the General Assembly and the Security Council when such resolutions are under discussion, but there is no reason why observers and accredited non-governmental organizations should not be involved at this stage as they are in the General Assembly.

Alan Boyle, 'The Challenge of Climate Change International Law Perspectives' in Suzanne Kingston (ed.) European Perspectives on Environmental Law and Governance (Routledge 2012) 55-80

Alan Boyle, 'Reflections on the Treaty as a Law-making Instrument ' in Alexander Orakhelashvili, Sarah Williams (ed.) 40 Years of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (BIICL 2010) 1-28
Abstract: In this chapter we will explore the impact of multilateral treaty-making on the international law-making process. The catalytic effect of multilateral treaties on customary international law is their most obvious and well-known law-making characteristic. Less well noticed is the foundation they provide for evolving regulatory regimes – framework or umbrella treaties to which are added successive additional treaties, protocols, implementation agreements, regional agreements, and subsidiary rules, including treaty annexes and binding decisions of the parties, or non-binding soft law that may nevertheless have legal effect pursuant to Article 31(3)(a) VCLT. But if the use of multilateral treaties for law-making purposes has undoubtedly been refined in the past forty years, other developments have also begun to supplement ‘the only and sadly overworked instrument with which international society is equipped’. At one end of the spectrum, soft law instruments now play a noticeably larger role than before. At the other, the UN Security Council’s forays into international law-making provide another indicator that there are alternatives to multilateral treaty making.

Alan Boyle, 'Liability for Injurious Consequences of Acts Not Prohibited by International Law ' in James Crawford, Alain Pellet, Simon Olleson, Kate Parlett (ed.) The Law of International Responsibility (Oxford University Press 2010) 95-104

Alan Boyle, 'Relationship between International Environmental Law and Other Branches of International Law ' in Daniel Bodansky, Jutta Brunnee, Ellen Hey (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of International Environmental Law (Oxford University Press 2008) 125-46
Abstract: International environmental law is neither a separate nor a self-contained system or sub-system of law. Rather, it is simply part of international law as a whole. It is true that many ‘environmental’ treaties and other legal instruments have been negotiated over the past half-century, and that the study of international environmental law is to a significant extent a study of these treaties and other instruments. Nevertheless, unlike World Trade Organisation (WTO) law, the law of the sea, or human rights law, international environmental law has never been systematically codified into a single treaty or group of treaties. There is neither a dedicated international environmental organisation nor an international dispute settlement process with the ability to give it coherence. This article provides the link between international environmental law and WTO law, the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity, environment and human rights, and dispute settlement and applicable law.

Alan Boyle, 'Forum Shopping for UNCLOS Disputes Relating to Marine Scientific Research ' in Myron H. Nordquist, Ronan Long, Tomas H. Heidar, John Norton Moore (ed.) Law, Science and Ocean Management (Nijhoff 2007) 519-40

Alan Boyle, 'Central Asian Water Problems The Role of International Law' in Sally N. Cummings (ed.) Oil, Transition and Security in Central Asia (Routledge 2003) 203-15

Alan Boyle, 'Reparation for Environmental Damage in International Law Some Preliminary Problems' in Alan Boyle, Michael Bowman (ed.) Environmental Damage in International and Comparative Law (Oxford University Press 2002) 17-26

Alan Boyle, 'Human Rights and Scots Law Introduction' in Alan Boyle, Chris Himsworth, Andrea Loux, Hector L. MacQueen (ed.) Human Rights and Scots Law (Hart Publishing 2002) 1-7

Alan Boyle, 'Codification of Environmental Law and the International Law Commission Injurious Consequences Re-visited' in Alan Boyle, David Freestone (ed.) International Law and Sustainable Development (Oxford University Press 1999) 61-86
Abstract: The International Law Commission (ILC) was established in 1947 with the object of promoting ‘the progressive development of international law and its codification’. While ILC does not ‘make’ international law, it has become a significant part of the subtle process by which international law both changes and comes into being. However, a recent study of the Commission shows that the very subtlety of its approach may have precluded the Commission from contributing in a more overtly creative way to the development of those new and important areas of international law which have emerged since 1945. The displacement of the Commission by other law-making bodies is most evident in the development of international environmental law. The ILC has played no part in creating what might be called the architecture of this subject: sustainable development, global environmental responsibility, transboundary risk management, and environmental rights. This chapter reviews the Commission's contribution to this new and important subject and determines the lessons that can be drawn for its future evolution as a law-making body.

Alan Boyle, David Freestone, 'Introduction ' in Alan Boyle, David Freestone (ed.) International Law and Sustainable Development (Oxford University Press 1999) 1-18
Abstract: This introductory chapter begins with an overview of the challenges posed by environmental protection and sustainable development to international law-making. It then considers the impact of the 1992 Rio Declaration of Environment and Development. This is followed discussions of the elements of sustainable development and the legal status of sustainable development.

Alan Boyle, 'UNCLOS, the Marine Environment, and the Settlement of Disputes ' in Henrik Ringbom (ed.) Competing Norms in the Law of Marine Environmental Protection (Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997) 241-56

Alan Boyle, 'Remedying Harm to International Common Spaces and Resources Compensation and Other Approaches' in Peter Wetterstein (ed.) Harm to the Environment (Oxford University Press 1997) 83-100

Alan Boyle, 'The Role of International Human Rights Law in the Protection of the Environment ' in Alan Boyle, Michael Anderson (ed.) Human Rights Approaches to Environmental Protection (Oxford University Press 1996) 43-65