The environment is a very broad term but in the context of
environmental law it generally means the physical surroundings
that are common to us all, such as the air space water land plants
and wildlife. The bulk of the subject is therefore concerned with the
regulatory statutory powers that public agencies have to control
activities that can adversely affect that environment and so hopefully
to protect and improve the environment.In this sense it is
specialised branch of Constitutional and Administrative law but it
also includes the private and common law subject of tort.
individuals can use the tort of nuisance to protect their own
interests and therefore indirectly to protect the general
environment. Enforcement of regulation also brings in the criminal
law and concepts such as strict liability.
As it is difficult to pin
down just the values that underpin the system, to understand
environmental law it is also necessary to understand the prevailing
environmental principles such as sustainable development and the
polluter pays principles.