Enforcing Environmental Regulations

Research by Professor Richard Macrory, Director of the UCL Centre for Law and the Environment, has directly influenced government policy and practice on environmental regulations, enforcement and sanctions. It has:

  • led to the enactment of government legislation
  • influenced the creation of a new sanctions policy between the UK Environment Agency and private companies
  • benefited environmental charities and local communities
  • led to the establishment of a new Environment Tribunal
  • established new regulatory sanctions principles adopted by other agencies
  • influenced environmental sanctions policies in other jurisdictions.

In 2003, Professor Macrory was commissioned by Defra to investigate the possible role of a new environmental tribunal. He examined existing appeal provisions, found them incoherent and recommended an integrated appeals system based on a specialised tribunal. He also published a report recommending environmental civil penalties to achieve more effective regulatory reinforcement.

The Cabinet Office then appointed him to chair a review on why businesses failed to comply with regulations generally. The Macrory Review proposed six core principles of an effective modern sanctioning system. The Government accepted the recommendations of the Macrory Review and legislated in the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 for regulators to be able to acquire civil sanction powers. The Environment Agency in England and Wales acquired civil sanction powers for a range of environmental offences, and an Environment Tribunal was set up in 2010 to determine appeals against sanctions.

Civil sanctions are now available for companies with 250+ employees, but Enforcement Undertakings, a voluntary undertaking to right harms also proposed by the Macrory Review, are available for everyone. This has had a significant benefit for local communities and small NGOs, with at least £500,000 donated to charities and small organisations under Enforcement Undertakings since 2012.

In 2011 the Senior President of Tribunals asked Macrory to explore whether further appeal functions should be transferred to the Environment Tribunal. His report, Consistency and Effectiveness, identified a large number of existing appeals that should be transferred to the Tribunal, and various appeal functions, including Nitrogen Vulnerable Zones and Carbon Emission Trading, have now been transferred.

Macrory Review principles have become embedded in regulatory sanctions beyond environmental regulation and are used, for example, by the Food Standards Agency and the Civil Aviation Authority. The Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 has created a new integrated regulatory framework in Scotland based on Macrory Review principles. Similar measures have also been taken in Northern Ireland and Israel.

Learn more about Enforcing Environmental Regulations

Read Professor Macrory’s report, Consistency and Effectiveness in full.

UKELA London Event 13 May 2010 – Environment Courts

Watch Professor Macrory discuss the issue of the Environment Court at an international, European and national level at the UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA) London meeting in 2010.


Richard Macrory, Consistency and Effectiveness: Strengthening the New Environment Tribunal (2011)