Access to environmental justice
At Leigh Day, we are at the forefront of activities to protect people’s environmental rights and provide access to environmental justice
Environmental judicial reviews are treated differently to other judicial reviews in the UK. The Aarhus Convention means the UK has to make special provisions for environmental claims, particularly around the costs of an environmental case.
So far, we have successfully represented several environmental organisations in their judicial review of proposals, including:
- The RSPB
- Friends of the Earth
- Client Earth
This, in turn, has helped protect the costs regime for various environmental cases. Get in touch with the team today to see how we can help you access environmental justice.
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What is meant by access to environmental justice?
Access to environmental justice means giving people the right to challenge decisions about environmental issues. This can include going to court to challenge whether public bodies have respected UK and EU environmental laws when making such decisions.
Anyone who feels their health or natural environment is at risk should have the right to bring a challenge. This includes individual citizens as well as charities and NGOs.
Everybody is entitled to live in a clean and healthy environment. There are many laws that protect the environment including, in England, The Environment Act, which sets standards around levels of:
- Air pollution
- Clean water
- Waste reduction.
The enforcement of environmental laws is supervised by the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP). When such laws are broken, the organisation is responsible for holding government bodies to account.
What is the Aarhus Convention?
The Aarhus Convention was adopted by the United Nations Environment Council for Europe (UNECE) in 1998 as part of a Conference in the 'Environment for Europe' process. The Convention gives the public certain environmental rights. These include the right to:
- Environment information – citizens have a right to environmental information and data and to know what policies and measures are carried out in their local area, alongside the impact to their health and safety.
- Contribute to environmental decisions – public bodies must allow time for citizens or organisations to speak up about an environmental proposal or plan.
- Review procedures and challenge public decisions – also known as access to environmental justice. This allows the public to go to court and challenge a failure to act or breaches of environmental law.
When do you need environmental justice?
Access to environmental justice is important when a public body has failed to act or there is a proposed change or development that could negatively affect the area where you live, work or spend time. You can take legal action against these environmental burdens as an individual citizen or as a group.
Some examples of where environmental justice might be needed include when there are:
- Proposed transport links that could cause a drop in air quality.
- A new housing development that would destroy a wildlife habitat.
- Discharges of sewage or other types of pollution into rivers, lakes or the sea.
How to achieve environmental justice
If you believe an organisation or government body provides an environmental risk, we can help. Get in touch with our specialist lawyers to talk about your case, receive impartial advice and discuss any next steps.
We have dedicated teams ready to assist in all matters of justice and environment law, including:
Should we agree to take on your case, we’ll work tirelessly to ensure your voice is heard and that judges can decide whether a public authority acted appropriately regarding environmental law.
If the public body is found to have acted unlawfully, the decision can be quashed and they may also be liable for your court costs.
Meet our environmental law team
Our environmental law team are well-versed in the compliance and regulations surrounding environmental matters. We’ve acted for individuals, charities and NGOs to reverse the negative effects of government changes and ensure everyone has access to environmental justice.
The team also has expertise ensuring the UK is held accountable for environmental damages overseas. So far, we’ve submitted a joint Communication to the UNECE Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee to raise concerns about the intensity of Judicial Review in the UK.
What the directories say
Very tenacious, enthusiastic and bright team of public lawyers. They act mainly for claimants and have a fantastic track record in holding public authorities to account.
Chambers and partners 2021
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Our environmental justice work
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Stonehenge road and tunnel decision unlawful, rules judge
Stonehenge campaigners are celebrating a massive victory after a judge ruled that a decision to allow a dual carriageway, road and tunnel to be built within the ancient World Heritage Site was unlawful.