In the past three decades, protecting the global environment has emerged as one of the major challenges in international relations. No fewer than ten global environmental treaties have been negotiated as well as literally hundreds of regional and bilateral agreements. Governments have also endorsed dozens of comprehensive action plans, most notably the 400-page Agenda 21, which set forth a blueprint for implementing sustainable development. The result is an increasingly complex and rich body of international environmental law and policy. At least on paper, this provides a broad framework for moving toward a more environmentally sustainable future.
U.S. foreign policy and national security policies have significant domestic and international environmental impacts, and the increasingly precarious state of the global environment presents important new challenges to U.S. national interests. Day-to-day military operations, together with arms production, testing, deployment, and trade, are resource intensive and ecologically damaging. Although such activities are subject to growing environment-related legal and political constraints, most peacetime military activities and foreign operations are still not subjected to rigorous periodic environmental assessment.