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It’s Time to Get Serious—Why Legislation Is Needed to Make Sustainable Development a Reality in the UK

Author

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  • Andrea Ross

    () (School of Law, University of Dundee, Scrymegeour Building, Dundee, DD1 4HN, UK)

Abstract

On paper, the United Kingdom (UK) has the architecture in place to actually start delivering sustainable development. The current UK-wide framework for sustainable development and the individual strategies made under it are all relatively modern and progressive in considering environmental limits and long-term effects. This framework, however, lacks a legislative foundation in the UK. Moreover, these strategies are not delivering in the three areas considered vital for the proper implementation of sustainable development—improving understanding, providing a comprehensive framework to integrate potentially conflicting priorities and providing an operational toolkit. This article argues that over and above its symbolic and educational value, specific legislation setting out the state’s approach to sustainable development should impose mandatory obligations on policy and decision makers, with meaningful consequences both inside and outside the courtroom. Using examples from Wales, Canada and Scotland, it explores three legislative models to support the implementation of sustainable development that would be suitable in the UK and its devolved administrations, and the legislative provisions necessary for their delivery. This article emphasises the benefits of procedural obligations, both by themselves and in support of more substantive obligations, along with the possibility that certain appropriately worded substantive duties be treated as legal rules that govern decision-making. It explores the benefits and drawbacks of including a definition of ‘sustainable development’ and of referring to specific underlying principles such as the precautionary principle, concluding that these elements may not be necessary or suitable in the UK. The article also contends that sustainable development ought to be the central organising principle of government in the UK, and that even if a weaker and less ambitious formulation is adopted, legislative backing for the production, use and review of sustainability strategies would still improve understanding, provide a framework for decision-making and clarify the use and importance of other implementation devices.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrea Ross, 2010. "It’s Time to Get Serious—Why Legislation Is Needed to Make Sustainable Development a Reality in the UK," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(4), pages 1-27, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:2:y:2010:i:4:p:1101-1127:d:8051
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Howard, Tanya, 2015. "Olivebranches and idiot's guides: Frameworks for community engagement in Australian wind farm development," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 137-147.
    2. Tanya Howard, 2015. "From international principles to local practices: a socio-legal framing of public participation research," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, vol. 17(4), pages 747-763, August.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    sustainable development; strategy; framework; legislation; statute;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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