Daniel Bodansky


On his book The Art and Craft of International Environmental Law

Cover Interview of April 19, 2010


Is international environmental law on the right track?

Some think it has been a complete failure, but I view the picture as more complicated.  Yes, the looming threat of global warming, the deterioration of many ecosystems, and the high rates of species extinctions should disabuse us of too optimistic an outlook.  At the same time, international environmental law has achieved some notable successes—the Montreal Ozone Protocol and the North Pacific Fur Seals Convention, to name two.  In doing so, international environmental law has displayed impressive ingenuity, developing a wide range of mechanisms for setting standards and promoting implementation.

In the end, international environmental law aims to find not the optimal outcome, but rather the skillful compromise that bridges the gap between competing positions and advances the ball, even if only a little.  This view of international environmental law is admittedly more prosaic than heroic.  It counsels us to resist the tempting oversimplification.  It accepts that international environmental law, like politics, is the art of the possible—and seeks to find the “sweet spot,” which goes as far as feasible but not beyond.  Above all, it sees the discipline of international environmental law, not as a panacea, but rather as an art and a craft.

© 2010 Daniel Bodansky