NEWS

PRESS RELEASE: Environmental NGOs call on European Commission to end the hurdles in access to justice in environmental matters

24-08-2017
Category: Aarhus
Environmental NGOs call on European Commission to end the hurdles in access to justice in environmental matters

August 24, 2017

The lack of a binding legal instrument from the EU causes hurdles in access to justice in environmental matters within all EU Member States. This status quo is likely to continue despite a guidance document („Communication“) [1] published last Friday by the European Commission.

Even though Justice and Environment (J&E) has welcomed the Communication, it remains convinced that a binding instrument is still needed to adequately ensure the public’s rights under both EU law and the Aarhus Convention. J&E has called [2] on the European Commission to address the main shortcomings and gaps in this document. This call is supported by ClientEarth and European Environmental Bureau.

Summer Kern, J&E’s Aarhus Topic Leader for Access to Justice, noted: “The Communication is supposed to finally improve upon what, according to the Commission’s own recently released impact assessment [3], is currently a “piecemeal” or “patchwork type system”. In fact, the Communication falls significantly short of expectations, both in terms of the form this was issued as well as content." She added: "The impacts of a nonbinding document are uncertain and difficult to predict. Also we very much regret that the detailed and consistent findings of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee have not been included, since this could have helped clarify issues and filled in a number of gaps."

J&E will discuss these issues in a side event on access to justice at the EU and Member State levels it is holding jointly with ClientEarth at the upcoming Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention in September in Montenegro [4].

Notes for Editors:

Established in 2003, Association Justice and Environment (J&E) is a European network of environmental law organizations that strives to protect the environment and nature by improving environmental legislation and enhancing the enforcement thereof.

[1] Commission's Communication on Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, which aims to help governments, economic actors and, crucially, members of the public, including NGOs, understand what rights and obligations there are for access to justice in environmental matters. In concrete terms, this means among other things when someone can go to court to inter alia enforce air quality standards, or ensure a proposed project doesn’t endanger nature in protected or sensitive areas. It also deals with rules about what one has to pay for going to court, and what remedies one can ask for, such as a stop of construction.

[2] Comments on the Commission’s Communication on Access to Justice in Environmental Matters

[3] Impact Assessment on a Commission Initiative on Access to Justice in Environmental Matters

[4] Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convetion and Protocol on PRTRs

Ends.

For more information, please contact:

Summer Kern, Aarhus Topic Leader for Access to Justice, J&E, summer.kern(at)oekobuero.at, phone + 43 664 7327 7556

Katre Liiv, Communications Officer, J&E, communications(at)justiceandenvironment.org, phone +372 507 6519