Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of West Indies, P.O. Box 64, St. Michael, Barbados, Tel: (246) 417-4226
Under the modern scheme for environmental management, courts assume a sub- sidiary role in enforcement to administrative agencies. But, a number of new and innova- tive techniques are available to bolster the role of the courts in environmental protection including tort, administrative and criminal law along with conflict of law. In addition, courts play a role in determining the adequacy of quantification of environmental damage. The article concludes with a discussion of empirical applications including discussion of four cases.
Commentary upon how judges view their role in deciding environmental cases presents acute problems for the young academic. There is the obvious cau- tion to prudence against presenting a diag- nosis of the judicial mind to an audience with real judges in attendance. More cru- cially, perhaps, there arises the need for to clarify the sense in which such an exposi- tion could possibly be meaningful.
The judiciary is, of course, the guardian of the rule of law. Courts routinely exercise their constitutional prerogative to interpret and enforce all of the laws of the land. The role of the judiciary is to enforce the law. That is what courts do. In this sense, therefore, there can be no special role for the judiciary in ensuring enforce- ment and compliance with the law in envi- ronmental cases.
A more teleological perspective could allow comment upon the role of the
courts vis-à-vis that of other agencies, in ensuring environmental law enforcement and compliance. At first blush, this appears a more fruitful approach because the legis- lature is increasing allocating primary responsibility for environmental regulation to administrative agencies. In the Caribbean, for example, the modern era of environmental law began with the passage of the framework-type, National Conser- vation and Environmental Protection Act 1987, of St. Christopher and Nevis. This was followed in rapid succession by the Natural Resources Conservation Act 1991 of Jamaica, the Environmental Protection Act 1992 of Belize, the Environmental Management Act 1995 of Trinidad and Tobago, (as replaced by the Environmental Management Act 2000 ) and the Environmental Protection Act 1996 of Guyana.
An essential purpose of this legis- lation was to overcome the traditional frag- mentation in environmental regulation by institutionalizing broad-based environmen- tal management. The basic function of the new administrative body is, in the words of one statute, 'to take such steps as are nec-