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Why legislate for sustainable development?

Why legislate for sustainable development?: an examination of sustainable development provisions in UK and Scottish statutes

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-68
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Environmental Law
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008


This article examines the use of the term ‘sustainable development’ in Acts of the Scottish and UK Parliaments. It begins by examining the UK's traditional reluctance to legislate on sustainable development, the more recent reversal of that approach and some definitional issues surrounding the term. It then moves on to consider the sustainable development provisions in detail examining their form, strength and limits, and how they can be monitored, reviewed and enforced both inside and outside court. The article concludes that over and above any symbolic value, in many instances the provisions also have legal significance. The formulations vary and while some are simply material considerations to be used in decision-making, those which set out mandatory requirements such as reports do create binding legal rules. Furthermore, there are a few examples where the duty or objective is set out as a clear legal rule that could be interpreted as providing a framework for decision-making.



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