International environmental law is traditionally depicted as a peaceful regulatory process, inspired by a worldwide concern for the quality of the global environment. However, this outline disregards the power structure surrounding the evolution of the discipline, not to mention the personal input of lawyers, environmentalists and scientists. Furthermore, the classical literature fails to accommodate the conflicting positions the global North and South have vacated towards environmental protection, the former advocating stricter environmental regimes and the latter promoting its right to development. Thus, this paper explores how international environmental law has been shaped by the continuing rift between developed and developing worlds. The goal is achieved through historical, critical and semi-biographical means. The paper first explores the birth of international environmental law as a Western critique to environmental degradation, describing also the consequent grapple with territorial sovereignty as an obstacle towards protection. However, attempts to engage developing countries were mostly superficial. The ideas of i.e. Lynton Caldwell, Richard Falk, and Jan Schneider will be explored in this regard. Then, the concept of sustainable development is examined: arguably, it bridged the gap between environmentally minded North and developmentally inspired South. Yet the paper demonstrates that the infamous definition comprised by Brundtland Commission never possessed a chance to succeed in incorporating both environmental and developmental concerns. This examination is accomplished by analysing the ideas of international lawyers, environmentalists and economists, such as Klaus Bosselmann, Edith Brown Weiss, Herman Daly, Donella and Dennis Meadows, and David Pearce. Finally, the paper provides a shortcut for recent discussion on climate change and the manner the legal regime seeks to embrace the conservationist and economic aspects of the problem, aspiring to engage all countries in the combat while simultaneously reinforcing the existing world order. The paper concludes that the current legal regime provides no solution to balance the competing interests of North and South; to pretend the contrary is far from convincing. Furthermore, the paper demonstrates that international environmental law was born due to activist groups and was actively shaped by them. Moreover, the regime is characterized by the simultaneous struggle for conservationism and development.