Environment protection

Environment protection is an everyday topic for debate in this modern 21th century as there is always a conflict between environment protection and economic development. The polluter pays principle is a fundamental principle in environmental law. According to the United Nations Environmental Programme, “the polluter pays principle states that whoever is responsible for damage to the environment should bear the cost associated with it.”

The principle first appeared in a legal context in a document prepared by the International Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and contained the following recommendation:

“The principle to be used for allocating costs of pollution prevention and control measures to encourage rational use of scarce environmental resources and to avoid distortions in international trade and investment is the so-called PPP. “

Furthermore, it is to be noted that the PPP was also included in the famous Rio Declaration at Principle 16 which provides that, “national authorities should endeavor to promote the internalization of environmental cost and the use of economic instruments, taking into account the approach that the polluter should, in principle, bear the cost of pollution, with due regard to the public interest and without distorting international trade and investment.

The Polluter Pays Principle is frequently applied as an obligation and pay component which can likewise go about as a motivation for potential polluters to actualize whatever estimates considered important to avert potential contamination, consent to guidelines, and maintain a strategic distance from extra expenses. One thing that should be made clear is that, one must recognize that emissions per se are not pollution. Pollution is the imposition of a harmful waste product or emission onto the person or property of another without that person’s consent; it is a ‘trespass’ under the principles of common law. If the trespass is so minor that it creates no impact or inconvenience for the property owner, it will normally be tolerated. Otherwise, it will likely result in legal action of some kind.  

The statement that the PPP, if applied correctly, can provide the incentive to put an economic value to pollution, especially on individuals and companies/firms, is debatable. The polluter pays principle is a welcome stance in the enforcement of environmental law, as it serves as a deterrent measure to potential polluter. One example of the PPP would be carbon tax. The purpose of a carbon tax is to reflect the true cost of burning carbon. Those costs are borne by those who suffer from the effects, such as homeowners, farmers and ultimately the Government. Carbon taxes make sure companies and consumers pay for the external costs they impose on society. By putting an economic value to pollution this allows industries to find cost-effective ways to reduce carbon emissions and also boosts economic growth.

Moreover, the ‘environment protection fee’ which has been introduced in Mauritius as an application of the Polluter Pays Principle , is a fee levied on hotels, guesthouses and tourist residences, irrespective of the number of rooms, with a tariff structure of 0.85% of turnover. Managers of establishment have the obligation to register their designated establishment by submitting an application for registration to the Mauritius revenue Authority.

In addition, there has been a wide belief that environmental laws are toothless in practice because enforcement authorities are under resourced and typical levels of fines and penalties imposed are too law. Lack of executive action has led to the polluter pays principle to degenerate into pay and pollute. To combat these lacunae some countries have introduced the concept of environmental sentencing which is more rigorous and is an example of the PPP itself.

Above are some of the arguments to show that if the PPP is applied in the correct way, it can help to attach an economic value to pollution. However, the PPP has been criticized numerous times for being lax and inadequate. Pollution haven which is a new term in the environmental law field is weakening the PPP principle and its application. Endeavors to put an expense on contamination have for sure frequently incited resentment and obstruction by manufacturers and employees who dread to be put off against foreigners that are situated in purviews with laxer ecological approaches. The contention that harder natural guidelines at last involve a misfortune in intensity and consequently urge enterprises to relocate production to an increasingly better business condition is normally alluded to as the “Pollution Haven Hypothesis”.

The PPP does help in monetizing pollution, but the fundamental question to ask ourselves is whether this monetary value will suffice to deter individuals and firms from polluting? Obviously, no! The PPP has allowed the polluter to evade punitive action by paying for environmental damage, the presumption being that the monies collected would then be used for the restitution of the environment.

The “fundamental problem with the broader use of the ‘polluter pays’ principle is that it does not indicate who is a polluter and therefore cannot determine liability.”It can be difficult to measure how much pollution is produced. It can be difficult to impose regulations or tax on firms from other countries. For example, when we contribute to global warming, the problem affects everyone around the world, but it can be difficult to create international agreements to impose penalties on those polluting. The non-intervention rule is a principle of international law that restricts the ability of outside nations to interfere with the internal affairs of another nation. Thus, when carbon or other toxic gases are being emitted by developed countries in the atmosphere causing global warming, the effects are being borne as well by the least developed countries. The PPP fails at determining liability and thus an economic value cannot be attached to pollution under such circumstances.  

It is good that countries are imbibing the Polluter Pays Principle in their law of land. But if the principle is not applied correctly then it does not really help in monetizing pollution effectively as we have seen in the arguments provided above. The exemplary damages granted to huge corporations do not serve the purpose of the exemplary environmental issues. We need to accept the fact that the biosphere cannot support endless consumption.

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