Table of Contents

Implementing Environmental Law

Implementing Environmental Law

The IUCN Academy of Environmental Law series

Edited by Paul Martin and Amanda Kennedy

At the Rio +20 conference attention was focused upon the variable effectiveness of a large range of international instruments. The IUCN too has recently began to focus upon the effectiveness of legal arrangements for environmental governance. Both of these developments are representative of an increasing awareness that legal environmental governance arrangements frequently fail to achieve the desired outcomes, or give rise to perverse and unexpected effects. The reasons why this may be so include issues such as the limited commitment of the responsible government or its agents, issues of corruption or incapacity, problems arising from the choice of the governance instrument, or the design of the law. This book tackles the challenges of implementation of environmental law, drawing upon the expertise of an international cast of contributors and investigations across a range of jurisdictions.

Chapter 11: Implementing environmental law and collaborative governance

Cameron Holley and Andrew Lawson

Subjects: environment, environmental governance and regulation, environmental law, environmental politics and policy, law - academic, environmental law


Traditionally, statutory regulation was viewed as the primary mechanism for achieving environmental and social change. Its uniform system and top down implementation was expected to engineer social and environmental change at every location. However, this vision never constituted an entirely satisfactory empirical account of the realities of environmental governance, and there is significant variance in how communities and governments seek to resolve environmental challenges. The last four decades have seen an expansion in environmental governance by non-state actors, often in response to the perceived inefficiencies and limits of traditional legal regulation (that is, hierarchical government control, detailed and rigid state rules and judicial enforcement). While legal regulation has had some success in curbing point source pollution, it has fallen far short in addressing complex challenges such as biodiversity, water extraction and diffuse pollution from agriculture. To tackle these ‘wicked problems’, business, civil society and governments have developed a range of tools such as market instruments, voluntarism, self-regulation and (importantly for this chapter), collaboration. While collaboration has a long history, only in the last two decades have collaborative natural resource approaches become an important instrument in the regulatory tool kit. Recognising that complex socio-ecological systems cannot be readily governed by a single actor (government), collaborative approaches to governance are distinctively polycentric – the state no longer plays the central role in governance. Non-state actors assume administrative, regulatory and implementing functions previously undertaken by the state.

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