Victory for environmental access to justice in Mauritius, Peter Lockley appears for NGO Eco-Sud in Privy Council

Peter Lockley

The Privy Council has handed down judgment in Eco-Sud (Respondent) v Minister of Environment, solid Waste and Climate Change [2024] UKPC 19, confirming that interested NGOs have standing to bring claims in the Mauritius Environment Tribunal. 

Environmental NGO Eco-Sud had sought to challenge an environmental impact assessment licence granted by the Ministry of Environment for a major development in a sensitive wetland area, but its claim was dismissed for lack of standing, applying established (and highly restrictive) Mauritian authorities. Eco Sud appealed to the Mauritius Supreme Court, which agreed that the test for standing should be liberalised in line with English case law, notably Walton v Scottish Ministers [2012] UKSC 44, to allow environmental claims by those with a ‘sufficient interest’ in the subject matter.

The Privy Council dismissed the Minister’s appeal. Central to its very clear decision is the basic principle that the environment cannot speak for itself. Adapting the example given by Lord Hope in Walton, of the osprey that could not defends its own interests in the courts, Lord Stephens JSC held that without a liberal approach to standing, “then in the example of a remote idyllic wilderness there would be no-one allowed to speak up on its behalf in an appeal” [88].

The case will revolutionise environmental law in the jurisdiction, allowing Mauritian NGOs to challenge the EIA licences before the Environmental Tribunal, which determines appeals by way of a rehearing on the merits [51]. That will greatly strengthen environmental protection on an island with a high proportion of endemic species, many now threatened with extinction.

Peter Lockley appeared for Eco-Sud with a team of Mauritian counsel, led by Stephen Tromans KC of 39 Essex St