Comparative Environmental Law

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 December 2023.

Topic Editors (2)

Paul A. Barresi
Prof. Paul A. Barresi 
1. School of Arts, Sciences, and Education, Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester, New Hampshire, USA; 2. School of Law, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China
Interests: Comparative Environmental Law; Environmental Rule of Law; Environmental Politics; Public Policy, and Law; Sustainable Societies; Sustainability Education
Tianbao  Qin
Prof. Tianbao Qin 
Research Institute of Environmental Law, Wuhan University, Wuhan, China
Interests: Environmental Law and Policy; Climate and Energy Law and Policy; Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Law and Policy

Topic Collection Information

Globalization has helped to give rise to unprecedented environmental challenges for human societies worldwide and to equally unprecedented incentives for those societies to learn from each other in crafting response strategies. Law-based strategies remain a popular option. Yet the field of comparative environmental law remains in its infancy, especially in the English-language literature. Penetrating scholarly analyses of U.S. and European Union environmental law abound in that literature, including in comparative perspective. Yet, the same is not true for the environmental law of most developing or transitional countries. For the latter groups of countries, most of the literature does not drill down deeply enough into any particular area of the law to make meaningful cross-country comparisons possible. This weakness is especially unfortunate to the extent that those comparisons might reveal links between the institutional and cultural contexts in which laws are made, implemented, and enforced, on the one hand, and the practical implications of those laws for the challenge of building sustainable societies, on the other. Instead, the literature cuts a wide swathe through environmental law in general and thus tends to resemble literature merely on policy rather than on law. This problem is compounded by the fact that the environmental laws of most developing and transitional countries have been inspired by their antecedents in developed countries. The result is an almost eerie consistency in environmental laws worldwide. This superficial consistency belies striking differences in how those laws function in practice, however. These differences in turn highlight the pressing need for richly contextual analyses of environmental law and its effectiveness as a strategy for building sustainable societies across a full spectrum of national institutional and cultural settings. This special issue of Ecological Civilization seeks to be a forum for scholarly analyses of this type, especially from explicitly comparative perspectives. Submissions that focus wholly or partly on the environmental laws of developing or transitional countries are especially welcome. Every manuscript submitted must include a meaningful discussion of how its contents are relevant to achieving sustainable development, constructing an ecological civilization, building sustainable societies, or related goals.  


  • Environmental Law
  • Institutions
  • Culture
  • Sustainable Development
  • Ecological Civilization
  • Sustainable Societies

Published Papers (2 papers)


22 May 2023

Private Property and Public Commons: Narrowing the gap

Private property and public commons each represent strongly felt concepts of society but in very different ways. While the protection of private property is at the heart of the capitalist system and deeply embedded in our laws, the protection of the public commons is a mere subset of government policies and often lacks firm regulations. Critically, natural commons such as air, water, biodiversity, and a habitable earth, are hardly protected at all. Environmental laws regulate use and protection of natural “resources” in a strict instrumental fashion, ignoring the intrinsic value of Nature and take Earth’s ecological systems for granted. This article traces the “hidden logic” of environmental law and explores some of the history of property and the commons in the European context. It then shows the fundamental importance of ecological integrity for all efforts towards sustainable societies. The overall thesis is that property and commons must be based on ecological sustainability as a fundamental norm of law.

Klaus  Bosselmann*
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01 September 2023

The Priority of Nature-based over Engineered Negative Emission Technologies: Locating BECCS and DACCS within the Hierarchy of International Climate Law

Drastically reducing emissions is essential to achieve the Paris Agreement’s (PA) goal of keeping global temperature well below 2 °C, ideally at 1.5 °C. With regard to residual emissions, however, a demand for negative emission technologies (NETs), also known as carbon dioxide removal (CDR), remains. NETs are particularly necessary to reach net-zero goals by offsetting emissions in hard-to-abate sectors. This article examines the distinction between “engineered” and “nature-based” removals from the perspective of international climate change law. To that end, the relevant legal norms in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol (KP), and the PA are interpreted—with a particular emphasis on two engineered removals: bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and direct air carbon capture and storage (DACCS). We posit that the three treaties establish a normative hierarchy that is more favorable towards so-called nature-based removals and less favorable to engineered removals (and even more favorable towards emission reductions).

Philipp Günther
Felix Ekardt*
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