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The Rise of Transnational Environmental Law and the Expertise of Environmental Lawyers

  • Elizabeth Fisher (a1)

The concept of transnational environmental law is used descriptively and prescriptively to refer to a multitude of legal processes which are distinct from transnational law in other legal areas. Hence, the rise of transnational environmental law requires environmental lawyers to reflect on their skills and knowledge and to foster both their contributory and interactional expertise in this area. That process of fostering expertise needs to be seen in light of a number of intellectual challenges, including the necessity to engage with comparative environmental law methodology, the need to not privilege one legal system over others, the need to engage with extended legal pluralism, the importance of thinking about the role of language in legal processes, and the significance of understanding the process of co-production.

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1 Fisher E., Lange B., Scotford E. & Carlarne C., ‘Maturity and Methodology: Starting a Debate about Environmental Law Scholarship’ (2009) 21(2) Journal of Environmental Law, pp. 213–50 at 228–31.

2 Commonwealth v. Tasmania (Tasmanian Dam Case) (1983) 158 CLR 1.

3 This ultimately resulted in the edited collection Harding R. & Fisher E. (eds.), Perspectives on the Precautionary Principle (Federation Press, 1999).

4 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (unced), Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Principle 15, available at:

5 For a discussion of this, see Fisher E. & Harding R., ‘The Precautionary Principle in Australia: From Aspiration to Practice?’, in O’Riordan T., Cameron J. & Jordan A. (eds.), Reinterpreting the Precautionary Principle (Cameron May, 2001), pp. 215–33.

6 J. Segal, ‘An Industry Perspective on the Precautionary Principle’, in Harding & Fisher, n. 3 above, pp. 73–82.

7 Fisher E., Risk, Expertise and Judicial Review: Scope of Review and Decision-Making under Scientific Uncertainty (Thesis in Law submitted for a D.Phil Degree, Oxford University, 1998).

8 Renn O., Dreyer M., Klinke A., Losert C., Stirling A., van Zwanenberg P., Muller-Herold U., Morosini M. & Fisher E., The Application of the Precautionary Principle in the European Union: Regulatory Strategies and Research Needs to Compose and Specify a European Policy on the Application of the Precautionary Principle (PrecauPri) (Centre for Technology Assessment, 2003).

9 Regulation (EC) No. 1907/2006 of 18 Dec. 2006 concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (reach) and establishing a European Chemicals Agency [2006] OJ L396/1.

10 Fisher E., “The Perfect Storm” of reach: Charting Regulatory Controversy in the Age of Information, Sustainable Development, and Globalization’ (2008) 11(4) Journal of Risk Research, pp. 541–63.

11 Fisher E., Pascual P. & Wagner W., ‘Understanding Environmental Models in Their Legal and Regulatory Context’ (2010) 22(2) Journal of Environmental Law, pp. 251–83.

12 Fisher E., Risk Regulation and Administrative Constitutionalism (Hart Publishing, 2007).

13 Fisher E., ‘Administrative Law, Pluralism and the Legal Construction of Merits Review in Australian Environmental Courts and Tribunals’, in Pearson L. & Harlow C. (eds.), Administrative Law in a Changing State: Essays in Honour of Mark Aronson (Hart Publishing, 2008), pp. 325–48.

14 Fisher E., ‘Beyond the Science/Democracy Dichotomy: The World Trade Organisation Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement and Administrative Constitutionalism’, in Joerges C. & Petersmann E.-U. (eds.), Transnational Trade Governance and Social Regulation: Tensions and Interdependencies (Hart Publishing, 2006), pp. 327–49.

15 See Lee R. & Stokes E., ‘Environmental Governance: Reconnecting the Global and Local’ (2009) 36(1) Journal of Law and Society, pp. 1–10, which introduced a special issue on the global and local in environmental law.

16 Kuhn T., The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (University of Chicago Press, 1970); Lakatos I., ‘Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes’, in Lakatos I. & Musgrave A. (eds.), Criticism and the Growth of Science (Cambridge University Press, 1974), pp. 91–196.

17 Yang T. & Percival R., ‘The Emergence of Global Environmental Law’ (2009) 36 Ecology Law Quarterly, pp. 615–64.

18 Busch P.-O., Jörgens H. & Tews K., ‘The Global Diffusion of Regulatory Instruments: The Making of a New International Environmental Regime’ (2005) 598(1) Annals of the American Academy of Political Science, pp. 146–57.

19 Wiener J., ‘Something Borrowed for Something Blue: Legal Transplants and the Evolution of Global Environmental Law’ (2001) 27 Ecology Law Quarterly, pp. 1295–371.

20 Heyvaert V., ‘Levelling Down, Levelling Up, and Governing Across: Three Responses to Hybridization in International Law’ (2009) 20(3) European Journal of International Law, pp. 647–74; and Schepel H., The Constitution of Private Governance (Hart Publishing, 2005).

21 Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, 549 U.S. 497 (2007).

22 Case C-459/03, Commission v. Ireland [2006] ECR I-4635.

23 E. Hey, ‘Global Environmental Law’ (2009) unpublished essay, available at:

24 See Bogojevic’s discussion of the ‘global gaze’ in Bogojevic S., ‘Ending the Honeymoon: Deconstructing Emissions Trading Discourses’ (2009) 21(3) Journal of Environmental Law, pp. 443–68.

25 de Sadeleer N., Environmental Principles: From Political Slogans to Legal Rules (Oxford University Press, 2002).

26 Lee & Stokes, n. 15 above, at pp. 2 and 7.

27 Fisher, Lange, Scotford & Carlarne, n. 1 above, at pp. 245–6.

28 Kelemen D., Eurolegalism: The Transformation of Law and Regulation in the European Union (Harvard University Press, 2011).

29 Carlarne C., ‘Good Climate Governance: Only a Fragmented System of International Law Away?’ (2008) 30(4) Law & Policy, pp. 450–80.

30 Stephens T., International Courts and Environmental Protection (Cambridge University Press, 2009); and Scott J. & Sturm S., ‘Courts as Catalysts: Rethinking the Judicial Role in New Governance’ (2007) 13(3) Columbia Journal of European Law, pp. 565–92.

31 Lee & Stokes, n. 15 above.

32 Scott J., ‘From Brussels with Love: The Transatlantic Travels of European Law and the Chemistry of Regulatory Attraction’ (2009) 57(4) American Journal of Comparative Law, pp. 897–942; and Heyvaert V., ‘Governing Climate Change: Towards a New Paradigm for Risk Regulation’ (2011) 74 The Modern Law Review, pp. 817–44.

33 Yang & Percival, n. 17 above.

34 Fisher E., ‘Unpacking the Toolbox: Or Why the Public/Private Divide Is Important in EC Environmental Law’, in Freedland M. & Auby J.-B. (eds.), The Public Law/Private Law Divide: Une entente assez cordiale? (Hart Publishing, 2006), pp. 215–42.

35 Bodansky D., ‘Customary (and Not So Customary) International Environmental Law’ (1995) 3(1) Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, pp. 105–19.

36 Jessup P., Transnational Law (Yale University Press, 1956).

37 Koh H., ‘Transnational Legal Process’ (1996) 75 Nebraska Law Review, pp. 181–208, at 184.

38 Kingsbury B., ‘Global Environmental Governance as Administration: Implications for International Law’, in Bodansky D., Brunnée J. & Hey E. (eds.), Oxford Handbook of International Environmental Law (Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 63–84.

39 Fisher, Lange, Scotford & Carlarne, n. 1 above.

40 Evetts J., Mieg H. & Felt U., ‘Professionalisation, Scientific Expertise, and Elitism: A Sociological Perspective’, in Ericsson K., et al. . (eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance (Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 105–23.

41 M. Chi, ‘Two Approaches to the Study of Experts’ Characteristics’, in Ericsson, et al., ibid., pp. 21–30.

42 Collins H. & Evans R., Rethinking Expertise (University of Chicago Press, 2007).

43 Ibid.

44 Collins H., ‘Language and Practice’ (2011) 41 Social Studies of Science, pp. 271–300.

45 Fisher, Lange, Scotford & Carlarne, n. 1 above, at pp. 239–43.

46 Fisher, n. 12 above.

47 Cf. Purdy J., ‘The Politics of Nature: Climate Change, Environmental Law, and Democracy’ (2010) 119 Yale Law Journal, pp. 1122–209; Godden L. & Peel J., Environmental Law (Oxford University Press, 2010); Heng L.L., ‘A Fine City in a Garden: Environmental Law and Governance in Singapore’ (2008) Singapore Journal of Legal Studies, pp. 68–117; and Wood S., Tanner G. & Richardson B., ‘What Ever Happened to Canadian Environmental Law?’ (2010) 37 Ecology Law Quarterly, pp. 981–1040.

48 Teubner G., ‘Breaking Frames: The Global Interplay of Legal and Social Systems’ (1997) 45(1) American Journal of Comparative Law, pp. 149–69.

49 Fisher E., ‘Risk Regulatory Concepts and the Law’, in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (ed.), Risk and Regulatory Policy: Improving the Governance of Risk (OECD, 2010); and Bogojevic, n. 24 above.

50 Zumbasen P., ‘Transnational Law’, in Smits J.M. (ed.), Elgar Encyclopedia of Comparative Law (Edward Elgar, 2006), pp. 738–54, at 739.

51 Galligan D., Law in Modern Society (Clarendon Press, 2007), at Chapter 10.

52 Shapiro M., Courts: A Comparative and Political Analysis (University of Chicago Press, 1981).

53 Scotford E., ‘Mapping the Article 174(2) EC Case Law: A First Step to Analysing Community Environmental Law Principles’, in Etty T.F.M. & Somsen J. (2008) The Yearbook of European Environmental Law, Vol. 8, pp. 1–47.

54 Bogojevic, n. 24 above.

55 Collins, n. 44 above.

56 Dryzek J., The Politics of the Earth: Environmental Discourses (2nd edn, Oxford University Press, 2005).

57 Bammer G. & Smithson M. (eds.), Uncertainty and Risk: Multidisciplinary Perspectives (Earthscan, 2008).

58 Fisher, Pascual & Wagner, n. 11 above.

59 Heinzerling L., ‘The Environment’, in Cane P. & Tushnet M. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Legal Studies (Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 701–24.

60 Jasanoff S., Designs on Nature: Science and Democracy in Europe and the United States (Princeton University Press, 2005).

61 Heyvaert, n. 32 above.

62 Jasanoff S., ‘The Idiom of Co-Production’, in Jasanoff S. (ed.), States of Knowledge: The Co-Production of Science and Social Order (Routledge, 2006), pp. 1–12, at 2–3.

63 Winickoff D., Jasanoff S., Busch L., Grove White R. & Wynne B., ‘Adjudicating the GM Food Wars: Science, Risk and Democracy in World Trade Law’ (2005) 30 Yale Journal of International Law, pp. 81–123, at 94.

64 Fisher, n. 14 above.

65 Wynne B., ‘Seasick on the Third Wave? Subverting the Hegemony of Propositionalism: Response to Collins & Evans (2002)’ (2003) 33(3) Social Studies of Science, pp. 401–17; and Jasanoff S., ‘Breaking the Waves in Science Studies: Comment on H.M. Collins and Robert Evans, “The Third Wave of Science Studies”’ (2003) 33(3) Social Studies of Science, pp. 389–400.

66 Abbott A., The System of Professions: An Essay on the Division of Expert Labor (University of Chicago Press, 1988); Sennett R., The Craftsman (Allen Lane, 2008); Haas P. (ed.), Knowledge, Power, and International Policy Co-ordination (MIT Press, 1992); and Evans R., ‘The Sociology of Expertise: The Distribution of Social Fluency’ (2008) 2 Sociology Compass, pp. 281–98.

67 Collins, n. 44 above.

68 Plater Z., ‘Environmental Law and the Three Economies: Navigating a Sprawling Field of Study, Practice, and Societal Governance in which Everything is Connected to Everything Else’ (1999) 23 Harvard Environmental Law Review, pp. 359–92.

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Transnational Environmental Law
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