Introduction: Environmental law

Environmental issues range from global to local. They include climate change and sustainable development. Public consultation gives opportunities to contribute to environment protection. There is a framework of specific environmental laws, but other areas of law are also relevant.

Communities around the world are concerned about global, regional and local environmental issues, regardless of political orientation or cultural background. An ethic of environmental protection has been asserted in society since before the 1960s, and has been mainstream since the international Stockholm Declaration 1972. A greater understanding of the principles of sustainable development has been spreading around the world since UNCED’s Brundtland Report of the late 1980s. Victoria was one of the first jurisdictions in the world to enact an Environmental Protection Act to regulate pollution.

Many environment protection laws provide for public consultation. This chapter describes the legal structure of environment protection, and discusses the laws that provide for public involvement in decision-making and the enforcement of:

environmental aspects of planning laws;

environmental impact assessment; and

pollution control laws.

There are many other environmental laws concerning mining, forestry, heritage, coastal protection and waterways. For information about these, seeFurther references”.

Protecting the environment often requires people to use other areas of the law, such as freedom of information, or consumer and competition laws. This chapter should be read in conjunction with Neighbours and noise, Negligence and injury, Appealing government and administrative decisions, and Freedom of information law.