The Importance of Environmental Law in the Dominican Republic

Yomayra J. Martinó SotoGRT Guest Blogger Yomayra J. Martinó Soto, General Coordinator of the Dominican Republic’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, explains the growing role of environmental law as part of the sustainable development of the Dominican Republic.

Environmental law is a specialized area of law that seeks to regulate the management of natural resources and the possible conflicts that may arise from anthropogenic activities. It will become an important pillar of legal practice, as the Dominican Republic pursues its transition to an economic model that is aligned with the environment, thereby guaranteeing the enjoyment of fundamental rights of future generations.

Globally environmental law has become a highly sought after field of expertise. The occurrence of manmade disasters such as oil spills in water bodies or the consequences of natural disasters, such as hurricanes or earthquakes, mean that specialized lawyers in this field are in high demand. These post remediation scenarios emphasize the need for people knowledgeable about environmental law.

However, the field of practice in this area is not limited to requests for remediation for environmental damage, but extends to cases of determination of liability, financial compensation, preventive counseling and strategic business planning. Furthermore, lawyers are required to incorporate environmental law into sustainable production policies, corporate social responsibility policies and corporate governance structures, and to identify potential risks associated with environmental issues.

The Dominican Republic is not immune to this reality. In fact, it is one of the pioneering countries in environmental regulation, putting forward constitutional principles related to environmental conservation, sustainable development and the need for land use based planning, and climate change adaptation policies. The country has implemented several legal instruments such as the National Development Strategy, the Renewable Energy System, and the General Law of Environment and Natural Resources (No. 64-00), as well as sectoral public policies related to water planning, forestry, mining and industrial processes.

The regulations mentioned above incorporate important principles such as the promotion of research, technology and innovation to support sustainable development. Another constitutional provision related to the environmental sector is the incentive to use non-polluting alternative energy.

The National Development Strategy 2010-2030 of Dominican Republic, which became Organic Law 1-2012 on January 26, 2012, states in its 4th article the need to transform ourselves into a society of sustainable production and consumption, which can adapt to climate change. The article provides that by 2030 we must see ourselves as “a society with a sustainable production and consumption culture, which manages equity and efficiency risks, and protects the environment and natural resources, promoting adequate adaptation to climate change”.

Greening Fig 3In this sense both the private sector, with its obligation to comply with national environmental regulations, and its corporate social responsibility programs, require trained professionals that understand and can apply the national and international regulations governing this matter. Furthermore, the public sector is called upon to follow the implementation and monitoring of these principles and rules, not only from the Ministry of Environment but from other government areas that have an impact on the use and management of natural resources, such as the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development; the Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, and the Ministry of Tourism, among others. These sectors increasingly demand lawyers with the relevant expertise to implement their programs and comply with these provisions.

It is common that conflicts arise between businesses, local communities and/or the state when considering the use of natural resources for economic development of countries. In light of that, it is important to have environmental lawyers at hand who are knowledgeable in handling environmental issues and can come to the aid of each party, representing their interests and advising them on the regulation in question.

In addition to the legal work advising on conflict or litigation that results from the development of public or private projects, there is also a niche market for monitoring the implementation of environmental permits and/or technical regulations within industries such as energy, mining, tourism, transportation, agriculture and many more.

At the international level, technical assistance agencies, generally require that in every country, professionals are able to meet the regulatory demands associated to providing services in the environmental area. This is expected by organizations such as the IDB, the agencies of the United Nations and other regional forums of integration and / or cooperation under signatory agreements such as DR-CAFTA.

Undoubtedly, Environmental Law will move from being an unexplored area of law to becoming a pillar in of legal practice during our time, as sustainable development remains a priority to achieve the transition to an economic model that is aligned with our environmental reality and can guarantee the enjoyment of fundamental rights of future generations.


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