Legislation and regulation


To transform policies relating to general or specific environment and health issues into legally defined rights and obligations, and to set forth measures and arrangements designed to ensure the observance of such right and obligations.


National laws and regulations are typically developed within the respective country’s constitutional framework and legal regime. Laws to implement environment and health related policies are normally built on scientific findings and assessment, and in consideration of economic, social and environmental conditions. Depending on the nature of the issue, environment and health conce rns might be addressed by framework laws (for general categories), sectoral laws (for specific topics), and/or regulations that set standards or administrative requirements for the implementation of a particular law.

Primary legislation, i.e. laws, would typically set forth a policy statement or objective, the scope of the legislation and/or its relationship to existing laws, and name an executive authority to govern the law’s implementation. Such legislation would also identify who and what is to be governed by the law, procedures to be followed, and means of enforcement. Details that are subject to regular review and change might be articulated in secondary legislation, i.e. regulations, ordinances, orders, or ordinances. Overall, laws and regulations provide tools for policy implementation, backed by enforcement, as well as procedures for the redress of damages.

International law requires members of respective treaty regimes or international organizations to take measures, individually or jointly, at the national and/or international level, to achieve common, stated objectives in whatever manner has been collectively agreed, and to establish relevant institutional arrangements or procedures.

Implementation of laws and regulations requires a pool of skilled human resources and substantive financial resources. Coordination among all relevant government agencies is essential. The public and all stakeholders should be informed of laws and regulations to facilitate compliance.


In addition to rights and obligations concerning health and environment that might be addressed in constitutional law, existing national laws and regulations in countries around the world cover a range of environment and health related issues. The following are examples of such issues:

Environmental policy (as a framework); Air pollution; Water pollution (surface and ground water); Water resources management for drinking water; Marine pollution; Soil contamination; Chemicals management (general and specific substances e.g. ozone depleting substances); Pesticides; Waste management (solid waste and hazardous waste); Noise; Environmental impact assessment; Siting/location of specific facility or factories; Compensation for damage/injury to health due to environmental cause.

Many international treaties in the field of the environment govern topics that are related to health, such as hazardous chemicals and wastes, transboundary air pollution, transboundary water management, climate change, ozone layer protection, and coastal and marine environment protection.

Relevance to policy making

Laws and regulations are normally regarded as consequences of policy-making, but their implementation, or lack thereof, might lead to a process of further policy development. New laws and regulations may also be needed to address emerging environment and health problems. International treaties and other instruments relating to problems of a global or regional nature might facilitate policy-making that aims to achieve a harmonized approach, nationally or internationally, on the issue at stake.


Relevant web -site links: UNEP/IUCN Joint Environmental Law Database (http://www.ecolex.org)