Aarhus Convention—access to justice
Aarhus Convention—access to justice

The following Environment practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Aarhus Convention—access to justice
  • The Aarhus compliance committee
  • Client Earth
  • Hinton Organics
  • Belfast City Airport
  • Environmental cost rules
  • European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018
  • UK response
  • The Stichting cases
  • Commission proposal to block Aarhus Committee findings
  • More...

Aarhus Convention—access to justice

The UK and EU ratified the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) in February 2005, and became parties to it in May 2005. Aarhus comprises three pillars:

  1. access to environmental information

  2. participation in the environmental decision-making process, and

  3. access to justice in environmental matters

The third pillar, access to justice, requires parties to ensure a public right to challenge environmental decisions made in breach of the first two pillars or in breach of other environmental legislation. Aarhus Article 9 requires that judicial procedures to challenge environmental decisions are 'timely and not prohibitively expensive'.

There is substantial case law in this field and the European Commission has published guidelines setting out how the public can challenge decisions, acts or omissions of public authorities before a court of law or similar body, covering legal standing, the intensity of scrutiny and the effective remedies to be provided by the national judge, and several other safeguards. The guidelines bring together all the substantial existing Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) case-law, making it easier for the implications to be understood by providing one comprehensive document. For more information, see: Guidelines aim to improve access to justice in EU environmental matters, LNB News 02/05/2017 93 and

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