Critically discuss and explain how law and policy endeavours to protect the environment

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“One of Gov’s objectives is high employment and maintaining high levels of growth: another objective is effective protection of the environment” if uncharitably regarded as competing rather than compatible critically discuss and explain how law and policy endeavours to protect the environment in light of such apparently contradictory and conflicting interests”

Unlike the usually quoted Brundtland Report definition, the “apparently contradictory and conflicting interests” of economic and social development and environmental protection are synonymous with a more modern definition  of interdependent, but mutually re-enforcing interests, of sustainable development (SD), 

 “…meeting needs in ways which deliver social progress, protection of the environment, better resource use, economic growth and employment by having a stable and competitive economy.”

This definition, already previously used in UK and EU policies and legislation uses, a three-pillared approach making environmental protection marginally less important, when weighed against socio-economic development, as concentrating on present generation needs and addressing environmental damage rather than conservation of natural, possibly finite, resources for future generation’s use.

SD centers on economic growth and environmental protection not being conflicting interests, but being integrated into policy and legislation therefore enabling people enjoying a higher standard of living and job security without it being at the environment’s expense, and reconciling objectives which at first appear contradictory and competitive.

Global resources are diminishing and the surrounding environment, which enhances our quality of life and is a human right, is seen by many to be deteriorating as evidenced by the depletion of the ozone layer, pollution of air, land and rivers, production of toxic wastes, acid rain, forest degradation and climate change. Environmental protection has come to the front of many political and public environmental programmes as a result of world events and pressure groups. Whilst SD appeared on the agenda at the Stockholm Conference, the Brundtland Report identified the possibility of appeasing those who had environmental protection near the top of their policies, as opposed to those who regarded it less important, when compared to economic development.

As a concept, SD is nothing new and can be divided into two approaches: Sustainable Economic Development aiming to give successive generations no less capital than that enjoyed by the present generation and providing the same levels of consumption, and Sustainable Use of Resources and the Environment identifying a responsibility to conserve natural resources for successive generations. 

SD requires legal, economic and social policy instruments in order to successfully face the challenges for supporting jobs, growth and environmental protection. After the Rio Conference  it was seen that framework policies and legislation were needed to deliver environmental protection using SD. However, these soft laws, whilst not being binding on the ratifying nations, have provided many of the important environmental legal principles such as SD, “Polluter Pays” and “Precautionary” Principles.

As part of the industrial world the UK’s capital includes not only natural resources, such as soil, forests, air, rivers and fossil fuels but also institutional, human and manufactured capital, and environmental damage and pollution is the result of centuries of industrialisation and human activities.

The main objective of environmental law and policy is to protect the environment. In the UK this is now primarily found in legislation. The tort laws of negligence, nuisance, trespass and the rule in Rylands v Fletcher whilst are important, judicial review being used to challenge regularity bodies, have not been strong enough to provide total environmental protection as they are usually reactive, have restrictive criteria, do not reduce pollution and do not easily enforce liability for biodiversity damage.

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The UK environment has no legal personality, is under multiple ownership i.e. “cujus est solum ejus est usque ad coelum et ad infernos” and in order to sustain or improve it and provide a quality of life for future generations, policies and laws to curtail, prevent or control pollution or harm, conserve resources are needed.  

Prior to the Stockholm Conference concern was more with the negative effects on human health of polluted water, air and land and lands use, rather than negative effects to the environment. The UK’s first attempt at environmental departmental co-ordination and environmental legislation    was the Department of the Environment. This evolved into the Department for the ...

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