Students' report proposes controversial changes to environmental law

A proposal paper on the future of environmental law considers a number of bold changes that could better protect Malta’s environment, green spaces and even water

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Paul Cocks
5 April 2017, 7:00pm
Environmental law in Malta, though updated only last year, could still be developed further and should be given greater prominence if the public is to start appreciating the need to protect the environment more, a report published on Wednesday recommended.

A proposal paper on the future of environmental law published by the International Focus Programme on Environmental Law and the European Law Students Association (Malta) considers a number of bold changes – some of which have already been implemented abroad – that could better protect Malta’s environment, green spaces and even water.

Subjects such as legal personality of land – which has been recognised in New Zealand – and the legal standing of NGOs, should start being debated in Malta, the report suggests.

ELSA is recognising the importance of environmental law by spreading awareness throughout the academic year.

As part of this venture, ELSA is internationally celebrating IFP Week this week, during which different national groups are tackling the legal aspect of the environment.

This year, the IFP on Environmental Law has two main goals:  reasserting ELSA’s primary goal of encouraging young lawyers and law students to realise their role in the formation of their society, and bringing attention to a long-neglected, yet essential topic of law.

ELSA Malta and the IFP noted that the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Council have recognised the interrelation between a safe and healthy environment and the enjoyment of human rights.

“There has been implied the States’ obligation to ensure environmental protection so as to secure fulfilment of human rights, while access to information and participation are aspects of environmental law which have also gained momentum,” they stated.

ELSA Malta took environmental law within the islands a step further by discussing new topics, presenting educational information and providing proposals for a substantial difference.

The report addresses human rights vis-à-vis the environment, including the Human Right to Water and incorporating the aspect of Environmental Democracy.

Climate change as opposed to climate action has been delved into, along with corporate liability in relation to environmental matters.

Lastly, the report also analyses positions on legal standing and legal personality in relation to land and environmental NGOs.

Such controversial topics were promoted in an attempt to “tease the readers’ mind and provoke thought and debate among Maltese citizens”, ELSA Malta said.

“The Maltese, as pioneers of the Law of the Sea, and as the main proposers that climate change is a common concern of humankind, have always carried an intrinsic awareness of environmental matters,” the report states.

ELSA Malta encouraged the public to seriously consider the suggestions discussed in the report, because – it said – only a keen and in-depth discussion could take Malta a step forward in the direction of a magnified sphere of Environmental Maltese Law.

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Paul Cocks joined MaltaToday after having spent years working in newspapers with The Times...