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1.1 Definition

The formative character of international environmental law reflects ambiguities of definition. This is largely due to its boundaries being indefinite. Disagreements about its definition include declining to be definitive. This view recognises that the protection of the international environment derives its legal underpinnings from institutions of general international law (Brownlie 2008). Sands, in his Principles of International Environmental Law, defines international environmental law to comprise 'those substantive, procedural and institutional rules of International Law which have as their primary objective the projection of the environment' (Sands 2003 p. 13). However, the environment comprises a multiplicity of aspects and issues that defy neat precision. The UK Environmental Protection Act of 1990 defines the environment in conventional terms as consisting of all, or any of the following media, namely, the air, water and land. The Oxford Dictionary defines the environment as the set of circumstances, or conditions, especially physical conditions, in which a person or community lives, works and develops. There is a tendency for the circumstances comprising the environment to be viewed as encompassing both the natural environment as well as the social human environment. With such inclusiveness international environmental law not only addresses aspects of the natural environment such as pollution, climate change, water use, desertification, and conservation of biodiversity, but also covers the protection of the international cultural heritage of mankind. This breadth is a consequence of international environmental law having fuzzy boundaries. More fundamentally, it reflects that the way human beings work and play is integral to the environment in which they live. Climate change, for example, is closely coupled to energy management and consumption, which in turn is governed by economics and politics. There are no neat boundaries to international environmental law. This is one of its challenges.