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10 June 2019
At the start of 2019, the United Nation's first global assessment of environmental rule of law demonstrated that environmental laws have been growing dramatically worldwide over the past three decades as society has come to understand the important links between the environment, economic growth, public health, social cohesion and security.
The report noted that 176 countries have implemented environmental framework laws which have been essential in slowing, and in some cases even reversing, environmental degradation. But having the legislation in place is not enough – the assessment also found that weak enforcement is a global trend that is exacerbating environmental threats, despite prolific growth in environmental laws and agencies worldwide over the past four decades.
The report states that "failure to fully implement and enforce these laws is one of the greatest challenges to mitigating climate change, reducing pollution and preventing widespread species and habitat loss". Therefore, legislation can only go so far in protecting the environment – another crucial tool is an active system of enforcement.
Jersey's environmental legislation covers areas including:
Further, the Minister for Planning and the Environment John Young has the power to exercise enforcement in a number of ways, including:
This system ensures that all development within Jersey is carried out in accordance with the local legislation and any specific conditions which Young may have placed on the planning permit as a condition to the development. For example, it is an offence to develop land without a permit or in contravention of any conditions of a permit. Jersey's legislation also ensures the protection of certain trees, making it an offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot or wilfully damage or destroy a protected tree without permission, thereby protecting the environment.
In addition to statutory legislation in Jersey there is the Revised 2011 Island Plan, which establishes principles and policies to safeguard the environment and countryside to protect Jersey from unnecessary intrusive development.
The Island Plan designates ecological sites of special interest and identifies environmentally sensitive areas (eg, coastal habitats, woodlands and grasslands). Where development proposals affect protected sites or sites of wildlife value the impact of the proposed development on biological diversity is a material consideration.
The Jersey Countryside Character Appraisal identifies and highlights the importance of the coast and countryside and establishes a clear and comprehensive approach for their protection. Within the Coastal National Park, the areas of Jersey's coast and countryside which are of national and international importance, planning policy provides the highest level of protection against development in order to ensure the conservation and enhancement of its natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage.
Jersey is fortunate that its natural beauty is a crucial part of its identity – essential also for local agriculture and tourism, which makes it vital to ensure that the local environment is sufficiently protected.
Measured against that, the scarcity of land in Jersey has resulted in the countryside being subject to considerable pressure for development. While legislation is necessary to conserve and protect Jersey's natural environment, there is a need for some flexibility within the legislation and supporting policies to allow residents the opportunities for sustainable development to meet Jersey's present needs without compromising that of future generations.
However, even with active and engaged enforcement, legislation can only go so far – the third key tool is the engagement of the wider community. While it cannot be legislated, ensuring that everyone contributes to recycling waste and reducing their carbon footprint is still essential to ensure that the environment is protected for generations to come.
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