Effective implementation of environmental law is more important now than ever before.
On 9 May 2019 the Dáil declared ‘a climate and biodiversity emergency’. Ireland is expected to miss its EU 2030 greenhouse gas emissions target by a significant margin. Emissions in the agriculture and transport sectors continue to rise.
The recent IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services highlighted in graphic terms the appalling, relentless loss of biodiversity across the globe.
From an Irish perspective, a new assessment prepared by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) published in August 2019 found that 85% of habitats are in unfavourable status. 46% of habitats demonstrate ongoing declining trends.
The latest results confirm, yet again, the urgent need for effective action to maintain and restore our natural habitats and wild species.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reported that indicative monitoring and modelling in Dublin reveals that certain areas of the city have high levels of air pollution and may be over the annual EU limit value for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2). The serious public health impacts of air pollution are well-known. It is significant that the EPA has provided this ‘early warning’ of the potential for exceedances in Dublin. The EPA has called for strong, co-ordinated action by all relevant authorities to address air pollution.
The EPA has also reported that nearly half of septic tank systems failed inspection in 2017 and 2018. This state of affairs poses obvious risks to human health and the environment. Even more worrying is the finding that nearly one third of systems that failed inspection in 2013-2018 had not been fixed.
Climate disruption, and the unfolding biodiversity crisis, as well as significant challenges in dealing with air pollution and the contamination of water from septic tanks, highlight the urgency of delivering better implementation of environmental law in the public interest and in the interest of future generations.
The following themes, which bear particular contemporary significance for the development of environmental law and policy in Ireland, will be considered at the UCC conference: the duty of public authorities to enforce EU law; enforcement of EU nature law; enforcing our right to clean air; private enforcement of EU environmental law including by means of litigation, where necessary.
Recent years have seen a dramatic rise in the volume of environmental litigation in Ireland as individuals, businesses, NGOs and community groups seek to ensure that public authorities observe the law when taking decisions that impact on our environment. There is, therefore, a rich body of jurisprudence from the Irish Superior Courts and the Court of Justice of the EU which merits close attention. The conference also aims to identify trends and to consider the future outlook for EU environmental law enforcement. It follows on from a seminar on Recent Developments in EU Environmental Law hosted by the Centre in June 2019.
The conference will be chaired by The Hon Ms Justice Marie Baker, Court of Appeal.
The contributors are: Áine Ryall, Co-Director, Centre for Law and the Environment UCC (Conference Convenor); Sibylle Grohs, Team Leader, Enforcement Unit, DG ENV, European Commission; Suzanne Kingston BL, UCD Sutherland School of Law; David Fennelly BL, School of Law, Trinity College Dublin; Katie Nield, UK Clean Air Lawyer, ClientEarth; Fred Logue, Principal, FP Logue Solicitors; and Tom Flynn BL.
The conference programme and booking details will be published shortly on the Centre for Law and the Environment website.