Should the UK Create an Environmental Rights Commission?

May 2013 (76) UKELA e-law 10

22 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2013

See all articles by Ben Christman

Ben Christman

Queen's University Belfast - School of Law

Date Written: May 1, 2013


Caroline Lucas MP has advocated creating an 'Environmental Rights Commission' (ERC). She envisages an ERC operating as a non-departmental public body on a statutory basis with sufficient resources to advance test-case litigation which supports and develops environmental rights and sustainability, and to promote a sustainability perspective in policy and legislation development.

This article discusses whether the UK should create an ERC. It first explores four institutions which are broadly similar to Lucas' envisaged ERC: the Australian network of Environmental Defenders Offices, the Ontario Environmental Commissioner, the New Zealand Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission. It examines the reasons for their creation, their roles and powers, and determines what lessons can be gleaned from their operation. Using this comparative information it then explores the arguments surrounding the case for and against creating a UK ERC.

It concludes that the case for the UK to create an ERC is a strong one. A well designed ERC could help to embed sustainability and environmental rights within the UK, develop UK environmental law, support the implementation of the Aarhus Convention and provide a respected 'voice for the environment.'

Keywords: environmental rights, human rights, national human rights institutions

Suggested Citation

Christman, Ben, Should the UK Create an Environmental Rights Commission? (May 1, 2013). May 2013 (76) UKELA e-law 10, Available at SSRN:

Ben Christman (Contact Author)

Queen's University Belfast - School of Law ( email )

School of Law
Belfast BT7 1NN, BT7 1NN

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