Current environmental laws often fail to achieve positive environmental outcomes with their goals overridden by development and economic considerations, says the Australian Panel of Experts on Environmental Law’s (APEEL) introductory paper for its Next Generation of Environmental Laws project.
‘Monitoring and compliance inadequate’
APEEL (above) member and National Environment Law Association (NELA) director Hanna Jaireth told EM the report was purposefully very general and the panel actively wanted people to contribute through its website.
APEEL said there was a “strong history” of protecting the environment but many successes were in response to crises. “Environmental monitoring and compliance action is inadequate. Environmental damage is being regulated but it is not being halted or reversed. The state of our environment is in decline,” it said.
Australia’s environmental law system was “insufficiently clear” about what it aimed to achieve as well as the legal or other principles that underpin the design and implementation of specific laws, the introductory paper said.
The paper examined six themes: foundations of environmental law; environmental governance; land-based conservation and natural resource management; climate laws and energy regulation; business, law and environmental performance; and democracy and the environment.
APEEL admitted there were some “key” gaps in the questions posed and it also sought input on these issues, including Indigenous perspective, management and governance of marine environments; environmental pollution; regulation of hazardous materials; and measures to adapt to climate change.
APEEL was launched in March with 17 legal experts including UTSA’s Professor Jan McDonald and Dr Ben Richardson (also an EDO Tasmania board member). Given the Federal Government's one-stop-shop initiative, APEEL's terms or reference said it was an “appropriate time to contemplate an alternative, best-practice scenario for a cohesive, national system of environmental laws”.
Technical discussion papers would be published in late January 2016.
– Deborah Nesbitt