Letter: Environmental law: policy, pressure and procedure in a growth area

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The Independent Online
Sir: Sharon Wallach reports that Paul Bowden judges Britain's 1990 Environment Protection Act to be 'a very impressive piece of legislation' - ahead of anything elsewhere. This is hardly surprising. Mr Bowden is a lawyer who makes a comfortable living from the litigation which followed. Unfortunately for the rest of us, the results of environmental legislation tend to be not so much a better environment as just more litigation.

The time and financial costs of this sort of litigation are extravagant. Meanwhile, the environment continues to be degraded and our scarce natural resources depleted.

The Environment Council in London has introduced a way forward based on the idea of consensus-building, and it is beginning to be used extensively in other countries such as the Netherlands.

In Britain the biggest barrier to taking on such ideas is our culture of adversarial resolution of differences. This obscures the real way forward, which is to make enforcement redundant. It means working on the formulation of policy and legislation together with those responsible for its implementation. With the help of 'third parties', such as mediators and facilitators, everyone agrees about what should be done and who should be responsible for doing it.

My real fear is that if we have to wait for an electoral system capable of producing a culture in which consensus and consensus politics play an important role, our environment will be already beyond the point of no return.

Yours sincerely,


Allen Hickling and Associates (Process Consultants)

Long Itchington, Warwickshire

17 June