Caroline Lucas calls for environment commission


9:45 am - September 17th 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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Yesterday evening Caroline Lucas MP called for the creation of an Environmental Rights Commission – a watchdog to help individuals and communities fight to protect their environment from pollution and over-development.

Speaking at a seminar hosted by the UK Environmental Law Association, Caroline Lucas drew comparisons between the fight against discrimination in the 1970s and 1980s and the fight for environmental rights today.

She said:

In the UK, people’s rights to a decent environment free from pollution, over-development and other forms of degradation are simply not strong enough. But even where we have rights, it can be incredibly difficult to uphold these against developers, businesses and often the Government itself. For many, legal fees in particular are simply unaffordable.

Just as the fight for women’s rights was supported by an effective and properly-resourced statutory body, the Equal Opportunities Commission, so we need an independent body now to help individuals and communities fight for their environmental rights.

That is why I am proposing the establishment of a Environmental Rights Commission. This body would be on a statutory base, with sufficient resources to support legal challenges that would not only help individuals or groups, but also advance the position of the environment at a national level, so benefiting us all.

The seminar was on the theme: ‘What does the Coalition Government have planned for the environment? What are the challenges ahead?’.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Speaking at a seminar hosted by the UK Environmental Law Association, Caroline Lucas drew comparisons between the fight against discrimination in the 1970s and 1980s and the fight for environmental rights today.

Mind boggles…

How to make a false analogy in one easy move.

And if Ms Lucas is so concerned with local abilility to oppose pollution and development, why does she not simply seek to strengthen local communities ability to successfully oppose planning applications? That would do the same thing without the bureaucracy and courts.

1. Watchman

When local opposition to planning application fails (even if you gave locals more rights) an Environmental Rights Commission would be a valuable resource.

I think the analogy with gender equality is appropriate. As an example, the UK has vast differences in air quality between different areas. Usually the areas with the worst air quality are urban areas where people are low paid or out of work. These areas may also have high numbers of people without English as their first language and may not have many people with the time, skills or inclination to fight effectively for reduction in air pollution. Does this mean that they should be forced to accept low air quality? Please don’t say that if they don’t like it they should move away. This is not an option for people struggling to make ends meet where they are and doesn’t solve the problem for everyone, just for them.
Similarly not all women being discriminated against in the work place had the time, money and skills to take on their employers. Other support was available, but the Equal Opportunities Commission has had a positive impact, despite there still being a long way to go.
An Environmental Rights Commission would send a signal that the government intends to work towards safe, healthy and enriching environments for all. It’s not as if every planning application would be sent its way. I’m sure that high profile cases would set precedent and change the culture of development, management and government to be more considerate of the environment in which people have to live, work and choose to spend their leisure time.


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