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UKELA debates whether UK Environmental Law has “fallen behind China”

Nov 19, 2015

Further information
Linda Farrow

In a recent address to UKELA’s annual Garner Lecture, James Thornton, Chief Executive of environmental lawyers Client Earth, set out his case that “The UK has fallen behind China on environmental law.”

In describing how access to the courts in China is “opening up fast”, allowing more than 30 cases to be lodged since new ”citizen enforcement” legislation was enacted earlier in 2015, James contrasted this with UK proposals on new costs rules, currently out to consultation, that he believed provided evidence of “ever more strident steps to keep citizens out of the courts.”

A UK and UKELA-wide audience of some 250 environmental and legal professionals, hosted in London by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and at 11 further sites across the country, debated Client Earth’s findings. Of particular interest was James Thornton’s view that “piecemeal improvements” in UK environmental law were not enough and that what Thornton described as “environmental law version 2.0” was needed to address serious risks such as those from climate change and poor air quality.

“The environment we cherish is more in need – right now - of friends and advocates than at any other time,” said Stephen Sykes, UKELA Chair, addressing the audience in his vote of thanks.

In closing proceedings, Sir Francis Jacobs QC, UKELA Patron, thanked James Thornton for his “powerful, yet balanced and constructive critique.”

Notes to the editors:

The UK Environmental Law Association 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 from the private and public sectors. 

Professor Jack Garner was a leading environmental lawyer and one of the founders of the UK Environmental Law Association. He gave one of two introductory addresses (with the late Andrew Lees) at the opening conference of UKELA in September 1986. He is remembered every year at UKELA's Garner Lecture, which is one of the leading events in the Environmental Law calendar. The first Garner Lecture was given in 1987 by Lord Nathan, who went on to become UKELA's first President. The Lord Nathan Memorial Fund for the Environment raises money to provide online information to the public about environmental law.

The Garner Lecture is available to view on UKELA’s website via the following link:


For further information on UKELA’s work, please visit: www.ukela.org

For more information on the current Ministry of Justice consultation on costs protection in environmental claims, please visit: https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/costs-protection-in-environmental-claims/supporting_documents/costprotectioninenvironmentalclaimsonsultationpaper.pdf

For specific press and media queries in relation to this news release, please contact: Linda Farrow, UKELA Executive Director, on: linda@ukela.org

UK Environmental Law Association - Better law for the environment
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Registered office: One Glass Wharf, Bristol, BS2 0ZX

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