Environmental law still lacks coherence in many respects. Two key areas of UK and EC law—water pollution control and biodiversity protection—are examined to see whether it is possible to adopt more common approaches. A key development in pollution control law was its redirection in the last twenty years from a largely reactive instrument towards one embedded in the realisation of environmental quality objectives through precisely stated quality standards. On closer inspection, many of these standards, though, are anthropocentric in origin. The approach of using the law purposively to achieve defined objectives is much better developed in pollution legislation as compared to the law on biodiversity protection. The latter area now needs to see a similar development in ecological quality standards, while recognising that their formulation is a significantly different exercise from that of establishing environmental quality standards. The use of ecological quality standards in the Water Framework Directive is commendable, but there remain substantial reservations about the criteria adopted and the underlying basis for ecological valuation.

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