Parliamentary Oversight of Environmental Governance and Legislation
There is a major gap between the rapidly growing number of countries that have enacted framework environmental laws, and the lack of effective implementation and enforcement of these laws.
WFD has commissioned the report ‘Environmental Institutions: Parliamentary Oversight of Environmental Governance and Legislation’ by William Wilson to examine the importance of the role of parliaments in the oversight of implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, and to explore seven different models of environmental governance around the world, including examples from Canada, England, New Zealand and Slovakia.
The report sets out seven different models – including environment ministries, environment agencies, variations on the parliamentary commissioner model, and one example of an effort to combine the parliamentary commissioner role with substantive enforcement powers proposed in the UK – and analyses the advantages and disadvantages of each.
While there are some features that are distinct to environmental laws, such as the importance of data and science and the impacts of international agreements, on the whole environmental laws are much like other laws. As such, they require active oversight by parliaments and the willing support of citizens and civil society to be fully effective.
Effective implementation and enforcement of environmental laws require political will, adequate resources for the enforcement body, and independence for the bodies or institutions which implement these laws.
Environmental data and environmental science are of the utmost importance to ensuring environmental laws are well informed and fully effective. To make oversight effective, parliaments, as well as regulators, need access to good data, and clear, understandable science, as well as the resources needed to make both available.