When we are talking about environmental law, we are referring to ‘the body of law that seeks to protect or enhance the environment.’ In the UK the relevant regulatory bodies are:
· Environment Agency
· Natural Resources Wales
· Scottish Environment Protection Agency
· Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland
· local authorities
We are also strongly affected by the environmental policy of the European Union. It is said that the body of EU environmental law is made up of over 500 Directives, Regulations, and Decisions. It is quite possibly the most extensive environmental policy of any international organisation.
What areas does EU environmental legislation cover?
As an example of an extensive international environmental policy, it is useful to look at the EU’s legislative summaries for the environment. Not only can we see which areas are covered, but the number of summaries can tell us a little about which of these areas are considered most important. Or, at least, which are the most hotly debated.
· Air pollution – 30 summaries
· Civil protection – 14 summaries
· Environment: cooperation with third countries – 47 summaries
· General provisions – 35 summaries
· Noise pollution – 5 summaries
· Protection of nature and biodiversity – 45 summaries
· Soil protection – 14 summaries
· Sustainable development – 26 summaries
· Tackling climate change – 58 summaries
· Waste management – 34 summaries
· Water protection and management
What does the future hold?
There are two factors to consider when thinking about the future of environmental law.
1. How regulations and legislation will change, i.e. what adaptations will be made to existing environmental laws, and what new areas of environmental legislation will be required
2. How the method of legislating will change.
The first aspect is something that we are already seeing, of course, as environmental concerns are being integrated into other areas of law, for example biodiversity and human rights. We are also seeing new areas of scientific development, and increased awareness, which means that regulations need to be developed to ensure that these new developments do not damage the environment, for example biotechnology and nanotechnology.
The second aspect will take longer, and no doubt be less discernible, dues to its less-than-concrete nature. One school of thought is that we will see more legislation that is in line with the idea of Wild Law.
“The concept of Wild Law proposes that we rethink our legal and political systems to stop environmental destruction…A new system of legal thinking and practice springing from Earth Jurisprudence and Community Ecological Governance.”
Whatever happens, it is very likely that we will see an increasing number of solicitors specialising in environmental law. As these numbers increase, you will be able to find more information via the Free Legal Advice Centre.
Visit the FLAC of the future to get information about the sustainability of your development, to ensure that you are meeting your personal quota of renewable energy, and to get advice on reducing your carbon footprint to below the minimum taxation level. No doubt you’ll be browsing the internet on you eco-friendly e-contact lenses!