Massimiliano Montini is Associate Professor of European Union Law at the University of Siena (Italy), and was teaching at UNAB, as part of the framework of the Erasmus+ Programme.
Montini is also founder and director of the Environmental Legal Team (ELT) at University of Siena and Vice-Chair of the Ecological Law and Governance Association (ELGA). During his visit at UNAB, he spoke with students and professors about transition from Environmental Law to Ecological Law.
What are the main differences between environmental law and ecological law? Are they complementary?
The main difference is the kind of approach, so, ecological law is a step forward from environmental law, it’s not against the environmental law, and it’s just an improvement of environmental law. The basic difference it’s the kind of approach, environmental law is focused on managing externalities, negative externalities on the environment. For example, pollution to air, water, soil and it’s not dealing with the kind of development we need to have. Ecological law ask for social economic development based on ecosystem protection as a prerequisite.
How addressing the lack effectiveness of environmental law?
Sometimes environmental law is not effective in the sense that is not delivering good results in environmental protection, very often we look at that just in a from of compliance of the law, sometimes this is the problem, sometimes this is not, in other cases we need to make a step forward and design the law in a different way by giving priority to ecosystem protection so it’s a kind of new approach, to designing and to interpreting the existent law.
What are main changes for the transformation of environmental law into ecological law?
The main changes are to change the attitude, change the approach and give priority to ecosystem protection and also abandon a purely anthropocentric approach try to conceive that humans are part of nature. And there is already many experiences around the world, there is a program of the united nations which is called harmony with nature and slowly thing are moving in this direction.
Is it possible to strike a balance between economic interests and environment conservation?
I think so, I think there is possibilities to do that. Obviously in other to create a balance we need to consider that ecological interests are at the same level of importance of economic interests because nowadays many people percibe that economic interests are more important and ecological interests are not so important, and there in the second place. If ecological an economic interests are at the same level of importance and more than that, they are the basics of a safe economic development we can promote the right approach. So is that just a way of changing our approach, our mind set.
What role do lawyers play in this moment where the environmental issue is so critical?
I think it’s very important, we are at a university with a school of law, I think lawyers and the role of lawyers, starting from the level of law student is very important. Traditionally, in our law school, students are too be lawyers in the traditional sense, lawyers in the traditional sense act when there is a problem, you go to a law firm and you ask the lawyer to fix the problem. I think lawyer, future lawyers in this field should be more proactive, so they should participate in the also process of changing the law, creating new law, promoting a new interpretation of the law, work with local communities in order to make them aware of the law, not just come at the last minute when there’s a problem before the court. This is a challenge for the future lawyers.
Air quality has been getting worse in many cities in our country, not long ago here in Bucaramanga the local government considered to do something about air quality. From a legal point of view, what can we do to protect the air and prevent it to keep deteriorating?
This is a very important issue, this problem is common to all countries around the world, big cities and small cities there’s a huge problem with air pollution. Even in areas like Europe where the law is at a good level if you look at the quality of the air is above of the indicators. I think we should prioritize the air quality and put some limits about cars, so many places are thinking about this, so better public transportation, limitation of some traditional engines, less diesel cars and more electric cars. Add new plants and actions because air pollution is a big problem and it’s common to Colombia, it's common to Europe, it's common to many parts of the world.