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Environmental justice in Spanish environmental law (Environmental justice in legal education event)

Jordi Jaria i Manzano and Maria Marqués i Banqué (Universitat Rovira i Virgili) presented a paper at the UKCLE event on Environmental justice in legal education on 29 March 2010. They explored how environmental justice has been incorporated into the Masters in Environmental Law at CEDAT (Tarragona Centre for Environmental Law Studies).


Environmental justice in Spanish environmental law: academic developments

Environmental justice as such is not a subject which has received special attention in the academic domain of environmental law in Spain. Traditionally, the study of environmental law in Spain has concentrated on command and control tools to ensure the implementation of public decisions in this field, and the sanctions to ensure compliance with environmental law, in administrative penalty law and criminal law. A state-centred point of view has been prevailing, ignoring environmental justice strategies.

Nevertheless, the deepening of the study of the impact of environmental constitutional clauses in the traditional understanding of the welfare state in its western continental European version (estado social; etat social; sozialstaat) and, above all, the impact of the Aarhus Convention in Spanish law have meant a certain change of orientation in the production of environmental law, in the research in this domain and, with certain reservations, one may say, in the attitude of the administrative machine.

If it is true that ‘environmental justice’ as a concept is not yet of common use in environmental law in Spain, environmental justice topics arise with force with the recent developments in the afore mentioned fields, particularly in the latter. Access to information, participation in the decision-making process and access to justice have a direct link with the core of environmental justice. This implies a new approach in the decision-making process, giving people the opportunity to say something on the decisions with environmental effects in their lives, taking part in the design of the development model of a certain society. The social distribution of environmental loads is viewed in relation to the development gains derived from taking environmental risks. Giving people the possibility to take part in the decision-making process, environmental justice issues may arise.

Introducing the environmental justice point of view in the content of the Masters in Environmental Law

The research work of CEDAT in this field has deepened the interest of its members in these issues and their scientific research, and has led to the introduction of environmental justice topics in the Masters in Environmental Law. The same has happened in the more specific domain of the study of the environmental aspects of the welfare state.

The environmental justice approach has been incorporated into the subjects of administrative law, constitutional law and international law. For example:

  • Environmental administrative intervention: Information, participation and access to justice in environmental protection; particularly, the right of access to information in environmental matters, public participation in environmental protection; public participation in political decisions affecting the environment and in the elaboration of environmental law and its enforcing; public participation in the administrative activity in environmental matters; and access to justice and participation in the judicial enforcement of environmental law
  • Foundations of environmental public law: Welfare state and environmental protection; constitution and sustainable development; democracy, development and environmental protection; control of public decisions with environmental effects from a constitutional point of view
  • International environmental law: Aarhus Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters

Environmental justice topics in the management-oriented subjects of the Masters in Environmental Law

The burgeoning importance of an environmental justice point of view in the understanding of environmental protection issues has led to an increased importance of this aspect in the Masters in environmental law. From its beginning in 2002, the Masters in Environmental Law was intended to incorporate a multidisciplinary approach, offering to the students subjects exceeding the narrow legal point of view with the goal of giving them a multidisciplinary understanding of environmental protection topics. Among these subjects, one may mention Analysis and Management of Environmental Conflict. This subject has incorporated the environmental justice point of view starting from a different approach than the strictly legal subjects in the Masters.

Environmental law clinic and environmental justice

The administrative transition from the original Masters (2002) to the new officially authorised Masters (2006) led the URV Faculty of Law – CEDAT did not exist yet; it was founded in 2007 – to update and improve its academic content. One of the most important changes in this process was the introduction of legal clinic in the program. It must be underlined that legal clinics in Spain are very scant, because this learning/transfer approach is absolutely strange to the tradition of legal studies. The renewed Masters incorporated the so-called Environmental Law Clinic. Given the insurmountable limitations to legal practice of law students in Spain, the Environmental Law Clinic has concentrated in its first phase in giving advice to public administrations in environmental law matters. Nevertheless, the demand for services from the clinic from communities has grown locally and internationally recently. With this, a new approach is demanded where environmental justice questions are gaining importance, given the characteristics of cases arising in work with communities.

Mainstreaming environmental justice

Masters in Environmental Law

Environmental justice aspects have gained momentum in the research and teaching aspects of the activity of CEDAT. Particularly, legal subjects, non-legal subjects and the Environmental Law Clinic have improved and enriched their environmental justice approach, given the new directions that environmental law production and research have experienced in Spain in recent times. With this, the environmental justice approach is more present in the learning process of the students on the Masters in Environmental Law. The fact that environmental justice topics have arisen in different aspects of the Masters allows us to talk about mainstreaming this point of view in this particular programme. In spite of this, the environmental justice approach is not yet systematic in the CEDAT Masters programme, because, it has been introduced in different ways, in different subjects and answering to different needs.

Legal studies in Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV)

The environmental justice approach has also been introduced at undergraduate level in the URV Faculty of Law. Some subjects included in the Masters in Environmental Law are offered to undergraduate students as optional subjects. This allows the extension of the environmental justice approach to undergraduate students in law. These students can also participate in the Environmental Law Clinic, but normally this is only available to final year students who aspire to study for the Masters when they finish their undergraduate degree. The activity of CEDAT researchers in this field has an additional impact in the mainstreaming of the environmental justice point of view in the URV law degree, because almost all of them teach not only on environmental specific subjects, but in general law subjects as well, such as international law, constitutional law or administrative law.

About Jordi and Maria
Jordi Jaria i Manzano is an assistant lecturer at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV) and a researcher at the Tarragona Centre for Environmental Law Studies (CEDAT). He has been working at URV since 1996 in the domains of environmental and constitutional law. His research has concentrated on environmental rights in the Spanish constitutional system, environmental federalism and environmental aspects of the welfare state. He has published three monographs and several scientific articles in Spanish law journals on constitutional aspects of environmental law and on devolution and federalism. He teaches on Foundations in Environmental Law and Environmental Comparative Law, compulsory subjects of the Masters in Environmental Law, of which he was director from 2006 to 2008.

Maria Marqués i Banqué is an assistant lecturer at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV) and a researcher at the Tarragona Centre for Environmental Law Studies (CEDAT). She has been working at URV since 1998 in the fields of environmental and criminal law. Her research has concentrated on environmental crimes and criminal policies in the risk society. She teaches on Environmental Criminal Law, and is director of the Environmental Law Clinic.

Last Modified: 4 November 2010