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.
Private 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.