Big Data is now permeating environmental law and affecting its evolution. Data-driven innovation is highlighted as a means for major organizations to address social and global challenges. We present various contributions of Big Data technologies and show how they transform our knowledge and understanding of domains regulated by environmental law – environmental changes, socio-ecological systems, sustainable development issues – and of environmental law itself as a complex system. In particular, the mining of massive data sets makes it possible to undertake concrete actions dedicated to the elaboration, production, implementation, follow-up, and adaptation of the environmental targets defined at various levels of decision making (from the international to the subnational level).
This development calls into question the traditional approach to legal epistemology and ethics, as implementation and enforcement of rules take on new forms, such as regulation through smart environmental targets and securing legal compliance through the design of technological artefacts. The entry of Big Data therefore requires the development of a new and specific epistemology of environmental law.