The “explosion” of specialized environmental courts and tribunals (ECTs) around the world is one of the most dramatic developments in modern environmental law. From only a handful in 1970, there are now over 1,200 ECTs in 44 countries at the national or state/province level (with additional hundreds at the local level) and scores more in planning or discussion today. They are in all major legal systems and all parts of the globe from the richest to poorest nations. And their numbers are growing.
The DU ECT Study, begun in 2007, is the leading research effort studying, reporting on, and informing these government judicial bodies and administrative tribunals that specialize in deciding environment, resource development, land use, and climate change disputes. The ECT Study is co-directed by the multidisciplinary husband-wife team of George (Rock) Pring – environmental lawyer and DU law professor emeritus – and Catherine (Kitty) Pring – award-winning ADR expert, systems analyst, and former government official (see “CV” links).
: The mission of the ECT Study is to provide informative, objective, balanced analysis of ECTs to aid capacity building. The Prings have published two ground-breaking books on ECTs – Environmental Courts & Tribunals: A Guide for Policy Makers (published by the UN Environment Program 2016) and Greening Justice: Creating and Improving Environmental Courts and Tribunals (published by The Access Initiative of the World Resources Institute 2009) – and numerous articles (all downloadable free – click on “ECT Study Publications/Papers” links to the left).
The ECT Study is based on in-court observations, research, and hundreds of interviews globally with ECT experts – justices, judges, prosecutors, government environment officials, business lawyers, advocacy groups, and academics. The and lay out important design elements for effective ECTs, recommended “best practices,” and practical guidance on how to operate an ECT – making them invaluable for anyone interested in creating or improving an ECT. The Prings continue to keep up the database, publish, present, and advise.
ECTs range from huge (New York City’s with 100,000s of cases a year) to tiny (Trinidad & Tobago’s with as few as 2 cases a year) and from large budgets (like Australia’s and New Zealand’s) to minimal finances (like Bangladesh).
Large or small, rich or poor, ECTs are contributing to the environmental rule of law, access to environmental justice, protection of the environment and human rights, and sustainable development. The ECT Study follows their amazing development with a critical and constructive eye.