Rolling green hills

Glen McLeod, Chair of the International Bar Association’s Environment Health and Safety Committee

The diversity of interests and subject matter covered by environmental law and associated disciplines find expression in the environmental agenda of the International Bar Association (IBA). In this short article I give an overview of some of those subjects, which will be examined in more detail at the IBA’s forthcoming conference in Vienna, from 5 to 8 October 2015.

Judicial, legal and policy developments in climate change law

The seminal IBA Report Achieving Climate Justice and Human Rights in an Era of Climate Disruption[1] (Climate Justice Report) was launched in October 2014 at the IBA Annual Conference in Tokyo.  You can read more about the Climate Justice Report in a previous blog article here. This year the IBA’s Presidential Taskforce on Climate Change Justice and Human Rights has continued with its work, with the support of the IBA’s currentPresident David Rifkin and other senior officers, including David Estrin[2], my immediate predecessor in the Chair of the Environment Health and Safety Committee. The work of the Task Force was summarised by Mary Robinson, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, as follows:

Through this Report the legal community embraces climate justice, elucidates the links between climate change and human rights and makes clear recommendations on ways to secure justice for those affected by climate impacts.

In the past twelve months two IBA working groups have developing elements of the Climate Justice Report recommendations, in particular a Remedies Statute and an approach to justice and adaptation. Justice Brian Preston, the Chief Judge of the New South Wales Land and Environment Court is taking an active role in this work as a member of the Remedies Statute working group. The groups will be reporting on their work, including the preparation of a Report for the IBA General Conference in Washington DC, 19-23 September, 2016.

Environmental justice and the trans-shipment of waste products

International dispute resolution relating to the the trans-shipment of waste from Western Countries to the Developing World. In the words of Gordon Nardell QC[3]:

The environmental justice issue is probably the tension between the attempt to reflect the commercial reality of the situation on the one hand, and the resulting uncertainty on the other – all within the context of the precautionary principle.

This issue is being considered in the framework of trade, environmental and health and safety effects of trade, current law, legal gaps and compliance with regulations.

Dr. Patrícia Iglecias, the Secretary for the Environment in the State of São Paulo, has prepared a review of the illegal export of waste to Brazil, highlighting the environmental justice aspects and its challenges.

Other themes and subjects include the importance of the definition of waste and the application to the precautionary principle to the interpretation of legislation.

The diverse impacts of drought

Four eminent academic, environmental consulting and water industry experts from Bolivia, India, the United Kingdom, the USA and Ireland are examining the divers impacts of drought from a regional perspective. The subjects being covered include the impacts of a lengthy drought on California development and agriculture and the friction between protection of endangered fish in Northern California and providing water to Southern Californian residents. The impact of drought and climate change on sea water levels will be discussed and some positive effects of drought are being considered.

Drought and related climate change issues will also be considered from a European perspective. The indirect impacts of drought including the current refugee crisis and the exportation of water resource will also be examined, including the emerging European Union (EU) legal framework for mitigating the effects of water scarcity and drought within the EU.

Extractive industries – what happens when environmental permit conditions fail: response and remediation

Environmental permitting is a core issue for the mining industry. International variations in approach to the subject are being covered from the standpoint of industry, government and non governmental organisations. There are many lessons that can be learned in the wake of an environmental disaster, but the issues that are repeatedly focused on include regulatory prevention, remedial action, the relative merits of criminal and civil liability of the government, civil liability to third parties, public relations and correcting mistakes.

Outcomes and conference

The above subjects are being examined by the IBA’s Environment, Health and Safety Committee (EH&S) and will be on the programme for the Annual IBA conference in Vienna, 8-11 October 2015. I am planning to prepare a report on the conference, to be submitted to the Editor of Brief for future publication.

The EH&S Committee is part of a grouping within the IBA called Sustainability, Energy, Environment, Resources and Infrastructure Law (SEERIL). This group serves as a focus for the mining, energy and infrastructure industries and associated specialist areas of legal practice, including environmental, health, safety, power and water.

Glen McLeod is the Chair of the International Bar Association’s Environment Health and Safety Committee.  He will be attending the 2015 Annual IBA Conference in Vienna this October.

[1] The full report is at

[2] Senior Research Fellow, Centre for International Governance Innovation: