Published on November 12, 2019 by Lauren Wade

Which countries has the strictest environmental laws

Climate rallies such as those organised by Extinction Rebellion are taking place all over the world. It’s clear that pollution and climate change are on everyone’s mind right now. 

It is therefore not surprising that legislators across the world have enacted legislation aimed at protecting the planet from climate change. Read on to find out which countries have the strictest environmental laws.

Which Countries Have the Strictest Environmental Laws?

Plastic has in many ways become the face of the environmental crisis. Consequently, many countries have implemented various bans on this harmful material.


Kenya is considered to have enacted one of the most extreme bans on plastic. The use of plastics has been completely outlawed in the East African country. Sanctions include up to four years of jail or fines of up to $40,000!

Meanwhile Rwanda has banned plastic bags and packaging materials and sanctions include up to six months of jail time.

Morocco has banned plastic manufacture, import, export, marketing and use. After the law took effect in 2016, over 750 fines of over $520,000 have been handed out by the courts.

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Countries in Europe have been taking measures as well. France has increased the prices of goods that use non-recycled plastic packaging.  The country has also banned single-use plastic cutlery and plates.

Alongside plastics, the excessive use of cars has been subjected to a lot of criticism by environmental advocates. Spanish cities like Madrid and Barcelona have implemented car-free zones in order to restrict the use of these vehicles. Oslo, the capital of Norway, has banned cars from the centre of the city and replaced car parking spots with bicycle lanes.

One very interesting law is Bolivia’s Law of Rights of Mother Earth. This gives the planet legal rights just as any individual person would have. These rights include the right to biodiversity and clean air. Environmentalists hope that other countries will follow Bolivia and do the same.

Environmental Democracy Country Rankings

The Environment Democracy Index tracks current national laws that protect environmental democracy and ranks countries accordingly. At the top of the list is Lithuania. Its enactment of the Environmental Protection Law provides members of the public with a way to challenge the government when it violates environmental rights. In addition, the government is required to seek input from the public on decisions that can impact the climate.

The next country on the list is Latvia. The public is also allowed to take part in climate-related decisions and can legally challenge the government on decisions that negatively impact the environment. In addition, they can make requests for environmental information from the government. As such, the country ranks high in transparency and access to justice.

The third country that appears on the list is somewhat surprising. The United States has frequently been criticised for its lack of environmental protection. However, it still has some of the strictest environmental laws in the world. Some examples of these laws are the Clear Air Act, which impose strict restrictions on emissions, and the Resource Conversation and Recovery Act, which intend to reduce waste.

The fourth country on the list is South Africa. It has enacted legislation such as the National Environment Management Act, which enables the public to comment on environmental laws. Citizens can also obtain remedies for violations of their environmental rights. In addition, the government is legally obligated to release environmental information to the public.

Taking fifth place is, finally, the United Kingdom! Citizens here are given a variety or rights, including the ability to challenge decisions and omissions that violate environmental rights. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 also gives citizens a right to access information, which means that they can view environmental data.

The future

The strict environmental laws that these countries have enacted shows a dedication to save the planet from the current environmental crisis we are facing. What is even more uplifting is that a UN report found that all countries have implemented at least one environmental law.

However, the real issue is getting countries to actually follow them. Many countries are not enforcing their environmental laws properly. As such, we might not see a great increase in environmental laws in the near future. Instead, we might see more policies encouraging better implementations and enforcement of the existing ones.

Therefore, the answer to which country has the strictest environmental laws in the future might look different to how it does now.

Words: Kristin Klungtveit

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