20150616 121712For two days from 15 to 17 June 2015 about 70 representatives from diferent government from countries of the UNECE region as well judges,  representatives from international organisations, European ECO Forum, NGOs and other stakeholders met in Geneva for the 8th meeting of the Task Force on Access to Justice under the Aarhus Convention. This meeting discussed many issues relevant for the implementation of the third pillar of the Aarhus Convention, including scope of judicial review in accordance with the Convention, mitigation costs, adequate and effective remedies, national dialogues to remove barriers to access to justice and sharing jurisprudence and promoting judicial networking. Many interesting prepsentations were heard during this meeting and all of them will be posted on the Convention's website. Several representatives from environmental organisations were among the speakers at the meeting, namely Ana Barreira (IIDMA), Andrew Jackson (An Taisce), Carol Day (Coalition for Access to Justice for the Environment) and others. It was also very interesting to hear further development regarding the acess to justice in Latin American and Caribbean countries and Asian region. 

For further information, please check the following link: http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=36725


First meeting of the Task Force on Access to Information under the Aarhus Convention

Effectiveness of the Compliance Mechanism under the Aarhus Convention


The fifth Task Force on Public Participation in Decision-making under the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) was held in Geneva on 23 and 24 February 2015 under the leadership of Italy. The meeting gathered representatives of many Parties to the Convention, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Aarhus Centres, regional environmental centres, businesses from across the region and international organizations.

Discussions particularly focused on exploring identification and notification of the public concerned, early public participation, the role of private actors and project developers and taking due account of comments and outcomes of public participation. In addition, participants benefitted from several innovative practices of public participation shared at the meeting.

Participants learned why marginalized groups, including women, ethnic minorities and the elderly, were not present at public hearings in some countries and how peacebuilding approaches might link to public participation in decision-making on environmental matters. The Task Force heard strong concerns with regard to an offshore gas storage facility, allegedly built without proper public participation, that had led to numerous earthquakes in Spain, resulting in costly compensation payments.

The Task Force agreed, among other things, to further consider how to address the challenges to effective identification and notification of the public concerned. It also agreed on the need to train those responsible for identification and notification, and on the need to allocate adequate resources.

The second day of the meeting focused on climate change. Participants explored the approaches taken in various countries to public participation in national climate change-related decision-making, and shared recent developments, such as how the public and developers were involved in the building of wind turbines, in designing low-carbon scenarios and in programmes to address water-level rise. Participants also learned about potential linkages with the dialogues on article 6 of the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In its presentation, European ECO Forum expressed concerns about numerous lacks, including legal provisions requiring public participation in climate change decision-making, a specific structure to involve the public, funding, efforts to involve the public on a regular basis and public awareness of the importance of climate change problems and/or the decision-making process. The Task Force agreed that ensuring effective public participation in climate change-related decision-making is of the utmost importance and encouraged close cooperation between national focal points of UNFCCC and the Aarhus Convention at the national level.

It has been demonstrated that if the public is able to participate in decision-making from the outset, it is likely that the final outcome of a project will be more acceptable to them and less harmful to the environment. It also means that hidden or unexpected aspects of a proposed activity can be uncovered early, helping to avoid costly mistakes. It is hoped the outcomes of the Task Force work will help to pave the way for the implementation of policy and practical measures to facilitate public participation in environmental decision-making across the region and beyond.

For further information, please visit: http://www.unece.org/tfppdm5

Extraordinary session of the Meeting of Parties to the Aarhus Convention

Belgium and Lithuania ratify the PRTRs Protocol



Major New Index Ranks Environmental Democracy in 70 Countries

WASHINGTON (MAY 20, 2015)–
World Resources Institute (WRI) and partners in the Access Initiative launched the Environmental Democracy Index (EDI), the first publicly available, online platform to track countries’ progress in enacting national laws to promote transparency, accountability, and citizen engagement in environmental decision making. The index evaluates environmental democracy in 70 countries, including 75 legal and 24 practice indicators, based on recognized international standards.

“With a number of critical moments in environment and sustainability in 2015, advancing good governance and environmental rights are essential. This index is a powerful lever that will help governments to become more transparent and ordinary citizens to advocate for more rights,” said Mark Robinson, global director, Governance, WRI. “For the first time, we have an objective, common index to understand the state of environmental democracy for countries around the world, which is essential to strengthen laws and public participation around environmental issues.”

The Environmental Democracy Index draws on national laws and practices that were assessed and scored by more than 140 lawyers and experts around the world.

The top ten countries based on national laws are: Lithuania (EDI rank #1), Latvia (2), Russia (3), United States (T-4), South Africa (T-4), United Kingdom (6), Hungary (7), Bulgaria (8), Panama (9) and Colombia (10).

“Environmental democracy isn’t just about making environmental information available to the public; that’s an essential first step, but governments must also allow citizens to be a meaningful part of the environmental decision-making process,” said Avi Garbow, general counsel, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Key findings from the index include:

* Being part of a legally binding convention on environmental democracy matters. Five of the top ten countries are signatories to the Aarhus Convention.

* Most countries assessed (93%) have established the right to environmental information. However, almost half of these countries (45%) do not have strong protections to ensure that access to information is affordable and timely.

* Laws on public participation lag behind: the vast majority of countries assessed (79%) earned only fair or poor ratings for public participation.

* But, many countries lag on providing citizens basic environmental information. Nearly half (46%) of countries assessed do not provide any ambient air quality data online for their capital cities.

* In most countries assessed (73%), courts will hear environmental cases. But very few countries assessed have assistance for marginalized groups. For example, few countries assessed (14%) have legal mechanisms that help women access courts to obtain redress when their environmental rights are violated.

Full text of the press release

ECJ rulings a setback for environmental democracy

EU must put pressure on Belgium for transparency

Parties and/or signatories