Environmental law has become a very broad area of the law which encompasses many fields. Section 24 of the Constitution indicates that everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well- being and to have the environment protected through reasonable legislative measures. The main piece of legislation which has as its purpose to implement the objects of Section 24, is the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 (NEMA). The NEMA is considered to be a progressive and ambitious piece of environmental management legislation in South Africa and globally. It has provided the framework for decision-making for individuals, institutions, and government.
Given the close inter-relationship between environmental conservation and human health, the field of environmental law usually overlaps with fields such as service delivery, procurement, mining, occupational health, town planning, mining, water, air quality, biodiversity, climate change, food security, disaster management and waste management to name a few.
For example, cities require a strong integration of sustainable town planning principles which incorporate climate change and frugal management of scarce resources to provide modern, sustainable cities that are resilient to change. As another example, the field would also consider biodiversity conservation through legal mechanisms, so for example, legislation dealing with poaching, trading and transfer of wildlife and biodiversity such as fauna and flora.
Given increased climate change and natural disaster, environmental law is also strongly linked to disaster mitigation, adaptation and prevention. In terms of energy, the field includes oversight of traditional energy sources and processing as well as alternative sources of energy. The field even stretches into the realm of directorship and shareholding, with increased international emphasis of environmental protection and sustainable models in terms of leadership, technological innovation, shareholding choices and director liability for environmental crime.