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Environmental law is a field or branch of law that deals specifically with environmental issues, both green issues such as biodiversity and habitat conservation and brown issues such as energy and pollution. Environmental law is now common in most countries worldwide, although the approaches to it vary depending on the legal systems (common law, civil law, etc.), whether or not a country is a federation, whether or not a right to a clean environment is enshrined in a Constitution and other such factors.
Environmental law is also heavily dependent on understanding, using and interpreting government policies related to the environment, as well as legislation (acts/statutes and regulations/delegated legislation) and case law.
Environmental law is a complex area of law. It could be said that environmental law requires the lawyer to be well versed in a wide range of legal areas, including health law, criminal law, torts law, property law, intellectual property law, trade and commerce law, constitutional and administrative law and more, in order to fully encompass the issues that are covered by environmental law, as well as finding sources of action or prosecution, remedies and penalties for environmentally harmful acts.
Environmental law is also divided into domestic environmental law and international environmental law (including regional law). Domestic environmental legal practitioners often require a good understanding of international environmental law to support their actions where local law is lacking in particular areas. International environmental law consists of treaties (international, regional, bilateral), soft law instruments such as declarations and customary international law.
Becoming an environmental lawyer
An environmental lawyer needs to have a law degree. While a specialization in environmental law topics is not generally necessary, it is certainly helpful.
Environmental lawyers are employed in such places as law firms, government agencies, NGOs, lobbyist organizations and direct for companies that have environmental impacts, such as mining companies, property developers and farming corporations. It is also possible to be an environmental law academic and to work in related areas such as policy think-tanks.
Environmental law around the world
The breadth and effectiveness of environmental law varies around the world. In some countries, there are well established levels of legislative and case law requirements to protect, care for and not damage the environment. In other countries, steps are still being taken to implement a sufficient range of laws.