Research Case Study: Modern Law Making - International Environmental Law

The construction of international environmental law is an exercise of modern law-making. Through his collaboration with Patricia Birnie from the London School of Economics (and later, Catherine Redgwell at University College London), Alan Boyle of Edinburgh Law School has been one of the primary architects of the international environmental law framework now in operation. His research has been disseminated through book chapters, journal articles, and three editions of his important textbook, International Law and the Environment. This book has framed the field as a legal discipline in its own right. 

Boyle’s distinctive scholarship pushes the boundaries beyond existing law to ask how international environmental law actually works – and sometimes does not work. As a result of his research being taken up by legal institutions, Boyle’s work has had a direct influence on law and practice because his analytical framework has been successfully channelled into the international court arena and, in turn, adopted as the paradigm for the evolving subject of international environmental law.

The International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) judgment in Pulp Mills (2010) was the first decision of any international court to address the core concepts of international environmental law. It deals with the regulation of trans-boundary pollution and environmental impacts. Boyle was counsel for Uruguay and based his written pleadings and oral arguments mainly on material drawn from Chapter 3 of the (then forthcoming) third edition of his book.

Boyle’s contribution to international environmental law was recognised when he was awarded the Elizabeth Haub Prize in 2011. The award cited both his academic achievements and his legal practice.

Related Links 

Elizabeth Haub Prize website

Information on the latest edition of International Law and the Environment 

Related postgraduate study at Edinburgh Law School

LLM in Global Environment and Climate Change Law

LLM in International Law