Role of Alternative Dispute Resolution in Environmental Disputes
Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR), mainly denotes a wide range of dispute resolution processes that act as a means of disagreeing parties to come to an agreement without using the means of litigation. It is a collective term that refers to the ways in which the parties can settle disputes, with the help of a third party. It is also known as external dispute resolution (EDR). ADR has gained widespread acceptance among both the general public and the legal profession in recent years and is also being adopted as the means to help settle disputes alongside the court system itself. There are various widely used forms of ADR such as Arbitration, Mediation Negotiation, and Conciliation.
Environmental law is a vast and dynamic topic that usually addresses the repercussions of human activity on the environment. It is an area of law that provides the base for responding to all the problems caused as a result of climate change, pollution, exploitation of natural resources, etc. Environmental disputes are very complex and difficult to resolve because of its widespread effect on the interests of the individuals, communities, etc.. However, the process of ADR deals with it in a hassle-free and systematic manner. Environmental disputes generally involve a vast-ranging variety of parties, from private individuals to the general public or various other communities, and can take place under various jurisdictions (both national and International). One person’s environmental dispute maybe someone’s industrial dispute and can also be impacting a nation’s sovereignty.
In earlier times, there were only a few limited ways of dealing with environmental disputes. These ways usually involved litigation and political action, but mostly litigation. This was because ADR was not a popular concept back then. However, as has been mentioned above, ADR has been widely accepted all over the world. This is because ADR provides flexibility to the parties in a way that litigation cannot. It gives the parties an opportunity to opt for their process and people through which they would prefer to communicate. It is not as formal, time and money consuming as litigation. In litigation, due to the burden of the pending cases, the process becomes long and tedious. ADR also provides an opportunity to restore the relationships between the parties. It is much more confidential and the consequence of ADR is dependent on and determined by the parties. There are many examples of ADR being applied to resolving environmental disputes.
The Paris Climate Change Agreement in 2015 is the most recent example of the application of the ADR mechanism to resolve an environmental issue. The United Nations conference in Paris on climate change saw 195 nations participate in negotiating a framework to curb emissions and take common action on climate change. The adoption of the Paris Climate Change Agreement by the participating nations was described by United Nations Secretary, Ban Ki-moon, as a ‘monumental triumph for people and our planet’. It was one of the major steps towards making the planet much more environmentally friendly and to bring nations together on the same page.
Though environmental law poses a lot of challenges, the recognition and widespread acceptance of the flexibility and all the other benefits offered by ADR process design makes ADR a viable alternative. The environmentalists as well as environmental lawyers should keep an update of all the modifications and update in the ADR mechanism and opt for the same instead of litigation.