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LLM Cum Laude Graduate doing her bit to Protect the Environment

April 23, 2015

Ms Felicity Elliott.
Ms Felicity Elliott.

Completing a Masters of Law degree at UKZN has reignited Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s bioregional conservation planner Ms Felicity Elliott’s passion for biodiversity and environment conservation.

Elliott, who graduated with her LLM in Environmental Studies cum laude, says the qualification gave her the perfect opportunity to learn more about Environmental Law in South Africa and internationally.

‘I have worked in the environmental field and I am currently working in conservation, both these required me to make use of a number of environmental statutes. Working with and interpreting these statutes got me interested in the legal field and environmental law in particular,’ said Elliot.

‘My other qualifications are in the sciences/environmental field. The LLM thus although not allowing me to operate as an attorney, does provide me with a greater understanding of Environmental Law, which I can put to use in my day-to-day work,’ said Elliott.

Elliot hopes her research work will help to find solutions to habitat destruction as a result of agriculture and urban development which poses a huge threat to South Africa’s biodiversity and environment.

Her dissertation titled: “A critical Assessment of Specific Aspects of South Africa’s Laws Relating to Biodiversity Offsets and Suggestions for Improvements”, explores biodiversity offsets in the environment field and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Process: The Fairbreeze Conundrum.

The study’s specific focus was on whether South Africa’s legislation currently provides an adequate framework for the implementation of biodiversity offsets, through the EIA process, and how this framework could be improved.

‘Biodiversity offsets are contentious because they are seen either as a much needed opportunity for mainstreaming biodiversity into sustainable planning or as a means for developers to get away with destroying the environment. Further it needs to be understood how legislation can be used to ensure that all possible benefits for biodiversity and the environment can be implemented when biodiversity offsets become an option,’ said Elliott.

The research’s findings reveal that there is a strong argument which suggests the current environmental legislation does not provide adequate protection to biodiversity and that further provisions need to be provided in legislation to ensure that when biodiversity offsets are utilised they are adequately managed and implemented - an issue that Elliott feels strongly about.

‘The greater argument of whether biodiversity offsets will turn out to be good for or detrimental to South Africa’s biodiversity is something that still needs to be determined and this can perhaps only happen after South Africa has fully implemented and audited the offsets approved in the last couple of years,’ she said.

Elliot said studying part-time had been challenging and required a delicate juggling act between work, studying and her personal life, but the achievement of graduating with an LLM and being awarded the Lexis Nexis LLM prize at this year’s School of Law Students Awards Ceremony made all the sacrifices worthwhile.

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