Climate change is no longer a priority, or even an afterthought, for the hollowed-out US Environmental Protection Agency. There are thinly veiled threats to water-down UK ambitions in respect of the conservation of the natural environment following the decision to leave the European Union. It appears that hard fought environmental gains, underpinned by effective and ambitious regulation are in the cross-hairs.

To those slashing red-tape or making bonfires of regulators, framing environmental protection as an obstacle to growth permits the characterisation of environmental harm as nebulous, contested or imaginary. 

Inertia over the UK government’s air quality plans means tens of thousands will suffer the effects of poor air quality for considerably longer than permitted in EU law – it’s certainly not contested, or imagined. At times like this, lawyers must step up, be innovative and require accountability with localised solutions through the courts and the development of global mechanisms of effective enforcement for the bigger ticket items like biodiversity loss and climate change. 

The impacts of Brexit on environmental regulation, alongside ocean resource management and on cultural-heritage management comprise current sustainability-focused research projects underway in law. The centrality of the regulatory regimes to positive change is often understated and rarely appreciated. Whether it be creating a discourse around concepts like the creation of a crime of Ecocide, or forcing the hand of government to enforce the laws it is bound by, accountability is key and the mechanisms to effectively enforce are critically important.