Our purpose & role
There is a clear unmet need within communities and civil society relating to the understanding of legal rights and remedies in environmental matters. At the same time, the environment has ‘no voice’ in the Scottish courts and relies on individuals, communities and environmental non-governmental organisations (eNGOs) to be that voice.
Our purpose is to increase the capacity and opportunity of individuals, community groups and organisations to promote environmental justice at neighbourhood, local authority and national levels.
Environmental justice is about ensuring a fair distribution of environmental benefits and burdens. It acknowledges that marginalised groups and communities are more exposed to environmental burdens (such as pollution, proximity to landfill and the impacts of climate change); and have less access to environmental benefits (such as accessible and nature-rich greenspace).
It also recognises that these groups are least responsible for contributing to environmental damage on local and global scales. Yet, they have less resources and opportunities to challenge harmful practices and protect the environment now, and for future generations.
ERCS promotes environmental justice in two ways:
- Substantive: by using the law to improve environmental protection and restoration and securing the highest standards for a clean, healthy and sustainable environment for everyone.
- Procedural: by working for equitable participation in environmental decision-making, recognition of robust and enforceable environmental rights, and for fair, equitable, timely and affordable access to legal remedies.
Our mission – what we do
To assist everyone, especially people who face the biggest barriers, to exercise their rights in environmental law and to protect the environment. We do this through:
- awareness raising of legal rights and remedies and supporting participation in environmental decision-making
- advice, assistance and representation to increase access to justice and holding public authorities and polluters to account on the environment
- advocacy in policy and law reform to improve environmental law
- strategic public interest litigation to tackle systemic environmental problems.
Environmental law includes law relating to land-use planning, climate change, pollution control, environmental health, the conservation of biodiversity, and any other field (e.g. cultural heritage, transport and energy) to the extent that it impacts on the natural environment.
Our values and principles are to be:
- open, accessible and approachable in how we offer our services
- respectful, collaborative and enabling in how we deliver our services
- evidence-based and assertive in how we advocate for policy and law reform
- trusted and authoritative in how we pursue environmental rights and litigation
- Transparent in how we evaluate our impacts and improve our overall effectiveness.
Find out more about why we need an Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland and our history.