Following the Brexit referendum, most environmental law scholars became preoccupied that domestic environmental standards may decrease, both substantively and procedurally. After all, the majority of domestic environmental law derives from EU law and the EU institutions have played a seminal role in enforcing environmental law.
Years later, the preoccupation has not faded away.
There have been numerous developments in the field. I do not intend to provide a comprehensive review here but to focus on one area of environmental law that is attracting much attention lately. No, it is not climate change. It is nature. (more…)
These were notes prepared for a seminar held by the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee of the National Assembly for Wales on the 31st of October 2016 to discuss the implications of Brexit for Wales in the field of environment and marine policy in particular. The notes discuss a number of constitutional and sector specific issues, key challenges and present some suggestions. (more…)
In what has been described as ‘nature’s own great climate experiment’, the 1992 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines provided scientists with data to refine their climate models. After the eruption, average global temperatures dropped temporarily as particles released into the stratosphere increased the Earth’s albedo. Solar Radiation Management (SRM) – or ‘reflecting sunlight to cool earth’ – developed notionally thereafter as a means of reducing global average temperatures resulting from increased greenhouse gases.
Pinatubo provided all kinds of data which helped increase the accuracy of climate models eventually predicting with relative certainty the temperature-cooling climatic impacts of SRM, whilst leaving relatively uncertain – or unknown – the extent of environmental impacts, such as those arising from changing patterns of rainfall. The current limitations of models in telling us about localised environmental uncertainties could be reduced if research into the effects of SRM took place outdoors, or in the field, so to speak. But that research would actually constitute deployment which itself would generate uncertain environmental effects. Given these significant constraints it is not possible to establish to what extent SRM technologies are effective or reliable and therefore it is imperative that a legitimate regulatory process is secured in which decisions about its research and deployment can be taken.
This new article* sets out how risky SRM field research might be regulated in the EU in such a way as to maximise legitimacy. It suggests that under particular conditions the EU could delegate to an independent agency powers to undertake what I call an incorporated risk assessment; an assessment in which science and politics, expertise and lay-knowledges are combined. Legitimacy would be maximised because the EU’s regulatory framework relating to the risks of SRM field research would be legal and also responsive, flexible, deliberative and inclusive. (more…)
By Alice Venn, PhD Candidate (University of Bristol Law School).*
The South Pacific is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to climate change impacts. The images conjured up of sinking small islands surrounded by miles of rising oceans however do little justice to the vibrant cultures, diverse landscapes and close-knit communities I recently encountered there. As part of my PhD project exploring the legal protection available to climate vulnerable states and communities I was fortunate enough, with the support of the South West Doctoral Training Centre, to be awarded a three month visiting researcher position at the University of the South Pacific in Port Vila, Vanuatu. I spent my time there gathering data, primarily through a series of interviews with key stakeholders from national government, local law firms and NGOs, as well as with a number of regional organisations during a short trip to Fiji. (more…)
By Ms Chris Willmore, Reader in Sustainability and Law (University of Bristol Law School).*
With the Referendum being imminent, the Environment has singularly failed to make itself an issue in the BREXIT debate. Yet it is impossible to explore any aspect of environmental law in the UK without encountering European Law. It is therefore no surprise that environmental lawyers and environmental groups have been queuing up to express concerns about the implications of BREXIT – Margherita Piericcini’s Cabot Institute blog on the impact on wildlife and habitats is an example.
The EU plays a fundamental role in shaping the environmental law regimes of its Member States and that of the UK is no exception. A significant proportion of current domestic environmental law derives from EU Regulations (that automatically become part of English law) and EU Directives (that are implemented through national legislation).
Nature conservation law, i.e. the legal regime used to protect environmentally significant habitats and species, is a case in point and the focus of this blog. Conserving nature is key not only from a purely biodiversity standpoint but also from an ‘ecosystem services’ perspective. Ecosystem services are the benefits nature brings to the environment and to people, including supporting services (e.g. nutrient cycling), provisioning services (e.g. food), regulating services (e.g. carbon capture) and cultural services (e.g. recreation). (more…)