Article Index

1.2 Principles for political and legal measures


Important is to

•   distinguish and explain the principles guiding environmental law both in a national and an international frame,

•   understand the meaning of ‘environmental sustainability’ and ‘sustainable development’ in the context of nature protection

Serious and substantial environmental law has to be guided by some high-ranking principles. For many international and and national regulations in the field of environmental law within the European Union (e.g. in Germany), four basic principles are the basis for all processes of environmental law-making:

  • the precautionary principle
  • the polluter-pays principle
  • the principle of sustainable development (concerning the integration of environmental protection and economic development) and
  • the cooperation principle.

Other principles are often mentioned, which complete the four main principles or define them in a particular way. Some examples are:

•   Environmental procedural rights

•   Common but differentiated responsibilities

•   International and intergenerational equity

•   Common concern of humankind

•   Common heritage

In this chapter we will focus on the four most important principles.