As the Earth heats up African lawyers are sharpening their skills around laws critical to greening, anti-pollution and conservation.
Environmental lawyers Pascale de Froberville and Glynn Kent, from Eversheds Sutherland in South Africa, say legislation in that country requires waste producers to register and adopt management plans to make them accountable for their rubbish from ‘cradle to grave’.
Private sector innovation seems to be leading the way.
“A common trend appears to be incentivising civil society to recycle and reduce waste through a number of initiatives that reward individuals for reducing and recycling waste. Such rewards can then be exchanged to purchase airtime and prepaid electricity vouchers,” Kent and de Froberville said.
What can lawyers do?
Greening and cleaning laws are dynamic and, to keep pace, lawyers need to watch legislative changes, attend seminars and use online resources.
Being aware of environmental challenges - like climate change and sustainability - means regulating our interaction with the natural environment and, at the heart of this, is compliance. The best way for companies to ensure this, said Kent and de Froberville, was to engage an environmental lawyer to provide an all-inclusive register of a firm’s environmental legal requirements.
And, the most effective way to reduce its environmental impact is by implementing a company sustainability policy which includes an environmental management system “EMS”.
What is an EMS?
An EMS includes policies, processes and procedures to control how a company interacts with the natural environment.
It can assist a company by making their day-to-day operations more environmentally and economically sustainable.
An example of an effective EMS is the globally recognised ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management System.
Who is getting this right?
De Froberville and Kent say Botswana is at the forefront of conservation because ecotourism is a major contributor towards that country’s GDP and the government is a strong green law enforcer.
“While governments play an important role, cooperation from civil society is crucial to conservation practices too. Countries, such as Rwanda, have adopted a decentralised and ground-up approach to conservation practices by placing local communities at the epicentre.”
Communities are far more willing to engage in conservation practices where they see the direct benefit of their actions.
Lawyers Rose Birgen and Cicilia Githaiga are with Natural Justice, a non-profit organisation focusing on African environmental and human rights law.
They are based in Kenya where laws ensure companies are compelled to recycle and reduce their environmental impacts based the “polluter pays principle”.
Since 2010, Kenya has built a “substantial record” of responding to environmental conservation challenges through institutional development, international cooperation, public participation and private sector planning.
Late 2017 Kenya banned plastic carrier bags.
But the lawyers cited Rwanda as an Africa leader “because they managed to ban plastic use when other countries did not think it was possible”.
Rwandans also clean up Kigali once a month, which makes citizens aware and responsible for their waste.
Birgen and Githaiga say the law society in Kenya has continuous development programme to keep lawyers abreast of changes to the law. This is bolstered by events of public participation subscriptions that most lawyers are familiar with, to regulators websites, databases and Kenyan law reports.
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