Research Handbook on Fundamental Concepts of Environmental Law
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Research Handbook on Fundamental Concepts of Environmental Law

Edited by Douglas Fisher

The quality and the strength of an environmental legal system is a reflection of the conceptual foundations upon which it is constructed. The Research Handbook on Fundamental Concepts of Environmental Law illuminates key aspects of environmental governance through the lens of their underlying dimensions: for example, the form, structure and language of international, regional and national instruments; the function of norms, objectives and standards; and the relevance of economic analysis and of integrated policy formulation.
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Chapter 14: The role played by policy objectives in environmental law

Chris McGrath


Statements of objectives are widely used in international treaties and national legislation and they perform multiple roles. One role is as a communication and public relations tool. Simple, clear and qualitative objectives such as ‘protecting clean air’ communicate to the general public the broad outcome that is intended to be achieved, thereby building public and political support. A second role is as an aid to interpreting treaties and statutes, although this role should not be overstated. A third role is to provide criteria for success in program review as part of the policy cycle. This chapter explores these roles using sustainable development and climate change as two examples of objectives in practice.

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