What does an environmental lawyer do?

What does an environmental lawyer do?

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Environmental law is one of the youngest legal branches, but with more projection within its sector. This is due to the growing awareness and concern for the environment, both by companies and citizens. That is why the figure of an environmental lawyer was born.

Interestingly, according to the Network of Environmental Law Professionals ( RADA ), the Bar Associations and Administrations do not show sufficient interest in promoting this specialization in law, whose relevance grows every day, so it does not have a large number of lawyers. specialized in the environment. This was precisely what motivated a series of lawyers, with the intention of specializing in environmental matters and supporting the defense of the environment, to organize themselves to share resources and information. 

Another of his great tasks is to “seek solutions to the problems that today make civil society feel helpless and defenseless in the face of the deterioration of our planet and the loss of quality of life.” Recently, on the occasion of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, environmental lawyers demanded the Climate Change Law and its legal defense.

Due to its relatively short run, there is a limited supply of lawyers who wish to focus their activity on the field of environmental management. Many times, the environmental lawyer ends up training in law firms or even has to build his own job.

The most common specializations today are Urban Law and its environmental impact, the law applied to the energy sector, energy efficiency or industrial development, or Environmental Law in Civil and Criminal Liability.

The Spanish legislation on environmental matters, regulated by the Spanish Constitution, expressly states in article 45 that ” everyone has the right to enjoy an adequate environment for the development of the person, as well as the duty to conserve it” and that  “the Public powers will ensure the rational use of all natural resources, in order to protect and improve the quality of life and defend and restore the environment, based on the indispensable collective solidarity.

And it continues: “For those who violate the provisions of the previous section, criminal sanctions or, where appropriate, administrative sanctions will be established under the terms established by law, as well as the obligation to repair the damage caused.”

In other words, companies are obliged to exercise palliative measures in environmental, preventive, and prior control matters, in addition to sanctioning them in the event that they carry out actions that are harmful to our environment that cause an environmental impact, or carry out actions contrary to the protection of natural spaces. In this sense, environmental lawyers can be a key piece in companies to request information and process the approval of projects and authorizations, ensure the application of the Aarhus Convention, or for criminal proceedings for environmental damage, among other applications.

Opportunities for the practice of environmental law

  • In the Public Administration. Specifically, holding the environmental affairs management position. Being able to offer information about specific environmental jurisprudence will be beneficial to provide better public services and planning and executing new initiatives that coexist in harmony with our ecosystem.
  • In companies. Ensuring correct compliance with environmental legislation and guaranteeing a defense, in case of infringement. Likewise, they can also serve as interlocutors with administrations or other agents, or develop strategies that imply economic efficiencies.
  • In environmental NGOs. Non-governmental organizations may require, at specific times, advice to be able to defend cases with legal support or to be defended in court. One thing to keep in mind at this point is that they often do not have financing.
  • In universities. Exercising as teachers so that the subjects, and in general the knowledge, of this branch proliferate.
  • in the middle Disseminating truthful and contrasted information on Environmental Law issues, to continue raising awareness in society as a whole.
  • In consulting and environmental audits. Working together with other professionals from different sectors, the contribution of a legal technician can be very valuable when advising on projects with environmental effects.
  • As a self-employed worker. The reality is that few professionals can afford to dedicate themselves fully to the field of environmental law due to the timid demand and the cost involved. Therefore, one solution is to make it compatible with other types of cases.

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