In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Multilateral Environmental Agreements

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews and Textbooks
  • Journals and Yearbooks
  • Reference Works
  • History
  • Biodiversity Conservation
  • Watercourses Management
  • Polar Areas
  • Hazardous Materials and Activities
  • Duty to Cooperate

International Law Multilateral Environmental Agreements
Ole Kristian Fauchald
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 March 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 March 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199796953-0042


Although multilateral agreements to protect environmental goods have existed for more than a century, the development of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) as we know them in the 21st century is a recent phenomenon stretching back approximately four to five decades. The selections in this bibliography focus on global MEAs. They provide references to literature on regional MEAs in fields where such treaties are particularly important. There is no generally accepted definition of MEAs. This bibliography builds on a rather broad definition, including treaties that at least partly aim to protect the environment. Some fields of international law have been extensively discussed in relation to MEAs. Literature on the relationships between MEAs and human rights, trade, and investment has been included in the following sections. The UN Environment Programme is the main UN organ responsible for the environment and has initiated negotiations of core MEAs. In addition, many specialized agencies and other organs of the United Nations have initiated MEAs and act as hosts to the institutional structures established through MEAs. The following sections are not categorized according to the institutional affiliation of MEAs. They also do not specifically focus on customary international environmental law (IEL). But there are close links between customary law and MEAs. For example, there have been significant efforts to codify customary IEL within some areas, particularly in state responsibility and the duty to cooperate to prevent environmental harm. The most significant elements of customary IEL fall within the scope of this bibliography. MEAs can be described, examined, and analyzed from a broad range of perspectives. The main perspective of this bibliography is international law. In addition, important contributions from other social sciences, in particular political science, have been referenced. Given the fragmented nature of IEL and the numerous MEAs, we can only include a few references for each topic. Consequently, the following citations will almost exclusively refer to monographs and edited books. Articles or publications written by treaty bodies, host institutions, nongovernmental organizations, or states are only referenced in exceptional cases. Moreover, as IEL is a young field of law, substantive and procedural rules are still evolving in many areas. Consequently, the following citations focus on recent and updated literature in most areas. For practical purposes, they have generally been limited to literature in English.

General Overviews and Textbooks

Multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) are addressed in textbooks on international environmental law (IEL). Such textbooks are a fairly recent phenomenon. Given the ad hoc and fragmented character of MEAs, textbooks and overviews differ significantly in their scope and approaches. Birnie, et al. 2009, a long-standing and broadly recognized textbook, shows how difficult it is to cover all relevant issues within a limited format—the book has grown significantly with each of the three editions that have been published thus far. Kiss and Shelton 2007 provides an overview of the main rules of a fairly limited range of MEAs. Despite claiming to present IEL in a “nutshell,” Guruswamy 2007 takes a broad and thorough approach to the topic. Sands 2003 covers the same topics in an extensive publication but has a stronger focus on the content and function of principles. Worthwhile supplements to these monographs are the Bodansky, et al. 2007 and Fitzmaurice, et al. 2010 edited volumes. These volumes comprise contributions from a broad range of experts, a format that provides for a challenging overview of IEL from a multitude of perspectives. Although still being based mainly in international law approaches, some textbooks more actively refer to other social sciences. Bodansky 2009 focuses on actors and processes in order to explain how and why MEAs have been established. Leary and Pisupati 2010 features an examination of the successes and failures of IEL by a number of experts in order to provide a basis for discussing its future.

  • Birnie, Patricia, Alan E. Boyle, and Catherine Redgwell. International Law & the Environment. 3d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

    A standard textbook covering all major areas of IEL for advanced courses authored by three (originally two) well-recognized authors with distinct backgrounds.

  • Bodansky, Daniel. The Art and Craft of International Environmental Law. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009.

    Building on experience he gained in international negotiations, as a member of negotiation teams from the United States, the author explains the forces, actors, and processes that determine how MEAs are developed and implemented to a broad audience.

  • Bodansky, Daniel, Jutta Brunnée, and Ellen Hey, eds. The Oxford Handbook of International Environmental Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

    In forty-seven chapters authored by specialists of diverse backgrounds, this handbook provides multifaceted introductions to the various topics of IEL. It will be of the most interest to those already somewhat familiar with IEL.

  • Fitzmaurice, Malgosia, David M. Ong, and Panos Merkouris, eds. Research Handbook on International Environmental Law. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2010.

    Composed of thirty contributions from mainly legal experts, this handbook provides in-depth studies of a broad range of general and specific topics related to IEL. Its focus on specific MEAs is limited.

  • Guruswamy, Lakshman D., and Brent R. Hendricks. International Environmental Law in a Nutshell. 3d ed. St. Paul, MN: West, 2007.

    The fact that a “nutshell” presentation of IEL runs at more than seven hundred pages is a sign that this book goes beyond the nutshell format, providing an interdisciplinary “socioscientific” introduction to the topic.

  • Kiss, Alexandre Charles, and Dinah Shelton. Guide to International Environmental Law. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Martinus Nijhoff, 2007.

    A brief overview of IEL that is useful to undergraduate students or students from other disciplines than law; it is based on an earlier, more in-depth textbook by the same distinguished authors.

  • Leary, David, and Balakrishna Pisupati, eds. The Future of International Environmental Law. Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2010.

    The collection includes various analyses of cases demonstrating successes and failures on a broad range of topics in IEL. On this basis, the editors argue that successful responses to environmental challenges will depend more on good environmental governance than on further development of MEAs.

  • Sands, Philippe. Principles of International Environmental Law. 2d ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

    Despite its title, this volume is written in a textbook format, covering all relevant areas of IEL. Written by a highly esteemed lecturer and professor.

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