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Need for Judges to have Environmental Training

Jul 04, 2006

The lack of environmental education for Judges is causing a big gap that needs filling, the Shadow Lord Chancellor, Rt Hon Lord Kingsland QC, told members of the UK Environmental Law Association(1) at their annual conference (2).

Lord Kingsland criticised the Judicial Studies Board for not providing training on environmental matters. “There is no scheme to teach the Judiciary about environmental concepts”, he said. There was also, he said: “The failure of Judges to develop the concept of environmental rights in the same way as they have developed the concept of human rights. Often there have been enormous problems in relation to the causation of environmental harm”.

He explained that the polluter pays principle was not effectively implemented through the courts as it did not necessarily address the harm caused. The system might require someone to be compensated for any loss but “the national environment which will have suffered a permanent degradation hasn’t been remediated”.

The conference also discussed some of the hot topics facing environmental lawyers and those with an interest in environmental law, including climate change, the environmental implications of nanotechnology, waste and better regulation.

On climate change, Chris Dodwell from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said that the UK’s tough stance on carbon emissions had mainstreamed environmental issues for business. “The UK decided it needed to go to the tough end of emissions trading because of the need for long term business certainty”. He said other sectors that could fall into the emissions trading scheme after 2012 include aviation, surface transport and other gases.

Peter Kellett, of the Environment Agency, described joint proposals from the Government and the Agency for modernising environmental permitting systems in England and Wales. He said: “domestic environmental permitting and compliance systems as a whole are over-complex. They can be streamlined without undermining environmental protection”. The proposed Environmental Permitting Programme would “deliver the requirements of numerous Directives through a single simpler permitting and compliance system for waste management licensing and Pollution Prevention and Control”.

Speakers were from DEFRA; the Environment Agency; private companies; law firms; universities; local authorities and international bodies concerned with sustainable development.

Notes to the editors:

1. UKELA is the UK charity which aims to make the law work for a better environment and to improve understanding and awareness of environmental law. UKELA’s members are involved in the practice, study or formulation of Environmental Law in the UK and the European Union.
2. The conference was held at Warwick University June 30th - July 2nd.
3. Nanotechnology is the ability to work at the molecular level, atom by atom, to create structures with fundamentally new molecular organisation, using particles in the nano-scale size range. It can be used to improve the protection of human health and the environment but there are also concerns about potential negative effects associated with releases of nanoparticles to the environment.

UK Environmental Law Association - Better law for the environment
Registered charity 299498; company registered in England number 2133283
Registered office: One Glass Wharf, Bristol, BS2 0ZX

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