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Call for Government to set up new body to defend the Environment

Sep 17, 2010

Further information
Vicki Elcoate

The new Green Party MP, Dr Caroline Lucas, told members of the UK Environmental Law Association(1) last night (September 16th) that she was launching a campaign to set up an Environmental Rights Commission.

This new statutory body would bring environmental cases – to protect habitats and species for example - and argue for people’s rights to a healthy environment and the rights of the wider environment.

She admitted this was “an odd time and unduly ambitious” but felt that it was time to take the initiative with a bold proposal building on Prime Minister, David Cameron MP’s announcement that this government would be the greenest ever.

Other speakers at the seminar looking at the environmental challenges for the new government were concerned about cuts in funding for environmental bodies and whether enforcement and environmental outcomes would be undermined, in consequence. The government has withdrawn funding from the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution and the Sustainable Development Commission. Yesterday MPs(2) announced an inquiry to look at how sustainable development could be better embedded into the working of government following the cuts.

Former Government adviser and UKELA patron, Tom Burke CBE, told UKELA members that auditors working for the Sustainable Development Commission should be found new jobs working inside Government. They should be transferred to the Environmental Audit Committee so their valuable skills weren’t lost. He said: “The really key challenge is to start walking the talk. The environment is one of the strong girders holding the Coalition Government together”.

Lord Boyd QC was concerned about the Coalition Government delivering commitments on carbon and energy. One of the major challenges was finding the capability to deliver its pledges on Carbon Capture and Storage, which is a new technology that locks up carbon emitted by fossil fuel power stations. He also suggested that one way corporate governance could be improved might be to create an internal audit function within corporations reporting not to the CEO but to the independent directors.

Notes to the editors:

1. UKELA is the UK forum 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. It attracts both lawyers and non lawyers and has a broad membership.

2. The Environmental Audit Committee, chaired by Joan Walley MP, yesterday launched a new inquiry on how sustainable development can be further embedded in Government policy decision-making and operations, in the light of the Government's decision to withdraw funding for the Sustainable Development Commission.

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