Search Results for: environmental


A Ferrari with its doors locked shut

12 January 2011 by

C-115/09 Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland, Landesverband Nordrhein-Westfalen eVvBezirksregierung Arnsberg Trianel Kohlekraftwerk Lünen (intervening) – read judgment

The German system of judicial review involves a “careful and detailed” scrutiny of administrative decisions. However, admissibility criteria are such that few are able to access this system, particularly groups bringing actions alleging environmental harm.

At the centre of this case is the highly topical matter,  relevant to one of the discussion threads on this site, of the trend towards a new system of environmental justice, heralded by Aarhus and the accompanying EU Directives, where national courts to are required to recognise claims brought by pressure groups alleging infringement of environmental provisions, even where there is no individual legal interest involved. The  Trianel case puts into sharp focus the debate as to whether the environment should be protected not as an expression of an individual’s interest, but as a general public interest, enforceable in the courts.
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Environmental compliance body urges major changes to law

8 December 2010 by

This time two years ago two obscure environmental groups,  Clientearth and the Marine Conservation Society , took a step that may make more difference to the enforcement of environmental rights in this country than all the recent high-profile “green” NGO campaigns put together.

They submitted a complaint – euphemistically called a “communication” – to the enforcement body of the Aarhus Convention, a treaty which lays down baseline rules for proper environmental justice in the EU, alerting it to various shortcomings in the legal system of England and Wales (inelegantly but conveniently referred to in the report as E & W).
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The evolved mind: rising to the environmental challenge

20 March 2012 by

This is a shortened version of an article published by Rosalind English in the Journal of Environmental Law and Management November 2011: Cooperation and Public Goods: an evolutionary perspective on environmental law  23 ELM 278-283 

In my 2011 post Why be nice? Human rights under pressure I explored the extent to which our limited tendencies to altruism, insofar as they have survived natural selection, could be institutionalised and enforced. In this article I apply the scientific learning on our cooperative instincts to the question of environmental regulation. I argue that whilst we seem to be hard-wired to cooperate, environmental responsibility will only be instilled under certain conditions that resonate with our evolved psychology, and that most modern environmental law fails to acknowledge these conditions.
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Ministry of Justice on Aarhus and environmental judicial review: its get out of jail card?

22 October 2011 by

Cost Protection for Litigants in Environmental Judicial Review Claims 

In this consultation announced this week, the Ministry of Justice is trying to get itself out of the multiple Aarhus problems facing UK justice. Infraction proceedings are threatened in the EU Court, and adverse conclusions were reached by Aarhus Compliance Committee; all  much posted about on this blog, for which see below. The main problem is that the Aarhus Convention requires that environmental challenges not be “prohibitively expensive”, and everybody now appears to agree that the basic UK system of “loser pays the costs” does not achieve that objective without changes. So what does MoJ propose to do about it?

It says that costs protection should be provided via codification of the rules concerning Protective Costs Orders. That means that a claimant in any public interest case may ask the court for a PCO, to “cap” his liability to pay the other side’s costs to such a figure as does not deter him from bringing those proceedings. The boundaries of when a PCO can be ordered are much fought over – leading to more costs –  but it certainly extends in principle to all public interest judicial review cases, not simply environmental ones. It is possible (at its very lowest) that PCOs can be made in public interest environmental challenges not involving judicial review, though there is not yet a decision either way on that.

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Public interest environmental litigation in Strasbourg

7 July 2013 by

zimbabwe_environmental_law_association_(zela)Public Interest Environmental Litigation and the European Court of Human Rights: No love at first sight, by Riccardo Pavoni – read article 

Thanks to this link on the ECHR blog, a fascinating account of the twists and turns of Strasbourg environmental case law from Professor Pavoni, of the University of Siena. It is 30 closely-argued pages, so I shall try and give a flavour of the debates Pavoni covers, as well as chucking in my own penn’orth. 

The starting point, as I see it, is that public interest environmental litigation is a square peg in the round hole of Strasbourg case law. The Convention and the case law are concerned with victims of human rights abuses. Environmental degradation affects everyone, but not necessarily in a way which makes them a a Strasbourg victim. Take loss of biodiversity, say the decline in UK songbirds, or the peace of a remote moorland affected by 150m high wind turbines. Who is the potential victim in those cases when judged by human rights? Pavoni argues that if the Strasbourg Court were to assert jurisdiction over environmental cases as a common good, alongside adverse impacts on private victims, this would not result in a major overhaul of the Court’s current principles – not too much expansion of the hole needed to fit the square peg in snugly. How does he reach that position?

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Environmental protection after Brexit

16 May 2018 by

“When we leave the EU, we will be able to build on the successes achieved through our membership, and address the failures, to become a world-leading protector of the natural world. We have also published the 25 Year Environment Plan, which sets out this Government’s ambition for this to be the first generation that leaves the environment in a better state than that in which we inherited it. These good intentions must be underpinned by a strengthened governance framework  that supports our environmental protection measures and creates new mechanisms to incentivise environmental improvement.”

Michael Gove has announced his plan for a UK Commission on the environment, for which the consultation paper is out now. The paper sets out the principles laid behind the Environmental Principles and Governance Bill which will be published in November this year.  This proposed law is said to mark the creation of a “new, world-leading, statutory and independent environmental watchdog to hold government to account on our environmental ambitions and obligations once we have left the EU.”

The proposed Bill may not see the light of day, if today’s events are anything to go by.  This afternoon the House of Lords voted (294:244) to include the principles of environmental protection in the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, rather than introducing a separate piece of primary legislation as set out in this consultation document: the successful amendment is first up here.

However things turn out in the Commons, it is worth attending to the plans for maintaining and enhancing environmental protection in a post-Brexit UK.
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Polluter Pays Principle: in Tobago, in the EU/UK, and in UK post-Brexit

1 December 2017 by

Fishermen & Friends of the Sea v. The Minister of Planning, Housing and the Environment (Trinidad and Tobago) [2017] UKPC 37, 27 November 2017 – read judgment

A vignette of where

(1) Trinidad and Tobago is,

(2) the EU/UK is,

(3) where Michael Gove may wish us to be post-Brexit,

on the Polluter Pays Principle (PPP), a key environmental principle.

As we shall see, in legal terms, the expansiveness of (1) and (2) contrasts with the potential parsimony of (3).

Now (3) may be better than nothing, as per the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, i.e, no enforceable environmental principles at all. But that does not mean we should not aspire for more. After all, as we shall see, the PPP is hardly a racy new entrant into environmental law.

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What is a “public authority” for the purposes of environmental information?

17 September 2013 by

water_tapFish Legal v The Information Commissioner, United Utilities, Yorkshire Water and Southern Water (Case C-279/12) – read Opinion of AG Cruz Villalon

In this most recent case concerning access by private individuals to environmental information held by public authorities,  the AG grasps the nettlish question of what precisely a public authority is. The issue was a subject of debate because the request for information had  been addressed to private companies which manage a public service relating to the environment.  The question therefore was whether, even though the companies concerned are private, they may be regarded as “public authorities” for the purposes of the Directive governing access to environmental information (Directive 2003/4).

Clearly the definition of the concept of “public authority” is an issue of importance not just in relation to access to information, but across the board, whether involving EU law or the application of the Human Rights Act 1998 and judicial review in domestic law.
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Information law: when something is “on” an environmental measure

30 June 2017 by

Department for Business, Energy and Industry Strategy v. Information Commissioner and Henney [2017] EWCA Civ 844 , 29 June 2017 – read judgment

As many will know, there are two different systems of freedom of information, the first and better known, the Freedom for Information Act 2000, and the second, the Environmental Information Regulations 2009. From the perspective of the inquirer (Mr Henney, here), the EIRs are the more favourable, and it was the differences between the systems which gave rise to this long-running dispute to do with energy Smart Meters.

The appeal went in favour of Mr Henney, and the Information Commissioner who had ruled in his favour. But the ultimate case is not resolved, as I shall explain.

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Is it time for a crime of ecocide? – Frances Aldson

2 June 2011 by

Most now accept that the Earth is fragile, but can the legal system help to secure its future? 

Among the ideas currently gaining currency is adding a crime of ecocide to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC).  If this idea is accepted, ecocide would join war crimes, aggression, crimes against humanity and genocide as a fifth crime against peace.

The rationale behind the campaign for a crime of ecocide is similar to that of other ecological legal initiatives; namely, that addressing environmental imperatives requires a seismic shift in attitudes, practices and culture, in both the corporate and political spheres.  Catastrophes such as Deepwater Horizon highlight the failure of existing mechanisms to ensure that the commercial world’s financial and economic prowess is matched by a duty of care for the planet on which it operates, and the rights of both its current inhabitants and those yet to come.

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Water companies are public authorities and must therefore disclose environmental information

16 April 2015 by

water_tapFish Legal v Information Commissioner and others (Information rights practice and procedure) [2015] UKUT 52 (AAC) Charles J – read judgment

Water and sewage utility companies are “public authorities” for the purposes of the environmental information regulations, and are bound by them accordingly, the Administrative Appeals Chamber of the Upper Tribunal has ruled.

Fish Legal is the legal arm of the Angling Trust. In 2009 it asked United Utilities Water plc and Yorkshire Water Services Ltd for information relating to discharges, clean-up operations, and emergency overflow. Emily Shirley is a private individual. Again, she asked Southern Water Services Ltd for information relating to sewerage capacity for a planning proposal in her village. All three companies denied that they were under a duty to provide the information under Environmental Information Regulations. Both Fish Legal and Mrs Shirley complained to the Commissioner. In 2010 the Commissioner replied, explaining that as the companies were not public authorities for the purposes of EIR, he had no power to adjudicate the complaints.
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When does a case become “prohibitively expensive”?

24 October 2012 by

R (Edwards & another) v. Environment Agency, Opinion of A-G Kokott, CJEU, 18 October 2012, read opinion – updated

In environmental cases, this costs question arises in a sharp-focussed way, because the UK is committed by Treaty obligations (the Aarhus Convention) and specific provisions of EU law to ensure that environmental cases are not “prohibitively expensive.”: Article 9(4) of the Convention. 

My further thoughts on this case are found here.

The issue arose because a domestic judicial review got to the House of Lords and the claimant lost. She was ordered to pay the costs. In due course, the matter came before the Supreme Court who asked the Court of Justice of the European Union to say what “prohibitively expensive” means in the Convention. The first and obvious question is – prohibitive to whom? No litigation may be prohibitively expensive to Mr Abramovich. Any costs liability may deter someone on state benefits.

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Why domestic Aarhus rules are not wide enough to comply with the Convention

1 December 2014 by

F_AarhusConventionSecretary of State for Communities and Local Government v. Venn, Court of Appeal, 27 November 2014  – read judgment  

Back to Aarhus and the constant problem we have in the UK making sure that the cost of planning and environmental litigation is not prohibitively expensive.

Article 9 of the Aarhus Convention (to which the EU has subscribed) says that members of the public should be able to challenge environmental decisions, and the procedures for doing so shall be adequate and effective and “not prohibitively expensive”. If this means nothing to you, you might want to limber up with my bluffers guide to Aarhus – here -not least on how to pronounce it and how it fits into domestic law.

Ms Venn wanted to stop the owner of land next door to her London property “garden-grabbing”, namely building another dwelling in his garden. The local authority had refused permission, the landowner successfully appealed to a planning inspector, and on further review, Ms Venn said that the inspector had failed to have regard to emerging planning policy in determining the appeal against her.

Lang J gave Ms Venn a protective costs order (PCO), limiting her costs exposure to £3,500 if she lost. The CA reversed this. As ever, the devil is in the detail. Had her appeal been by way of judicial review, she would have got an order in her favour. So why didn’t she?

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Environmental judicial review is “prohibitively expensive”, uncertain and insufficient

31 August 2010 by

A Geneva-based international committee has just said (provisionally) that domestic judicial review law is in breach of international law in environmental cases. Why? And does it matter? In this post we will try and explain why, and suggest that it does matter.

On 25 August 2010, the UN-ECE Aarhus Compliance Committee issued draft rulings in two long-running environmental challenges which, if confirmed, may have wide implications for how environmental judicial reviews are conducted in the UK. A key finding was that such challenges were “prohibitively expensive” to mount and this puts the UK in breach of its “access to justice” obligations under Article 9(4) of the Aarhus Convention. In addition, the Committee ruled that the UK’s grounds for judicial review of the substantive legality of decisions were too narrow, and said that the domestic rules as to timing of these challenges were insufficiently certain.

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Costing the planet: should environmental cases have a free run?

30 November 2010 by

Big business between government and property developers may be at risk from public interest challenges in the courts if current obstacles are removed.

Following  critical findings by a UN environmental body, the Government has set out its latest proposals for allocating the costs burden in environmental cases.  The current position is that an applicant who seeks to dispute the lawfulness of a decision, say, to grant permission for a development, will only  get a court order preventing commencement of construction if they are prepared to pay for the developer’s loss should their claim fail at the full trial of the merits.

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