Press release: 21 October 2021

EU continues to undermine international environmental treaty by seeking exceptional treatment on subsidies

ClientEarth lawyers have expressed frustration today after the EU once again dodged accountability for failing to bring itself in line with international access to justice treaty the Aarhus Convention.

The bloc’s stubborn refusal to open State aid decisions to challenge by the public and NGOs leaves it in breach of the Convention, as confirmed by the UN body responsible for deciding on compliance, the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee (ACCC). In practice, this means that decisions channelling huge sums from the public purse directly to industry remain untouchable by civil society.

Yet today the EU has managed to prevent the Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention from endorsing the compliance decision against it. This is the second time the EU has blocked the endorsement of negative findings against itself – something no other party to the Convention had ever done.

ClientEarth environmental democracy lawyer Sebastian Bechtel said: “The EU is playing a dangerous game here – as a Party to this international Convention, it needs to uphold the rules and accept when it has failed. But instead, its insistence on exceptional treatment is undermining basic values that the success of this agreement depends on. This is not what international leadership on the rule of law and environmental accountability looks like.”

Based on the insistence of ClientEarth and other NGOs present, the MoP has stressed that the postponement of the decision to endorse is exceptional and has requested that the EU report periodically on its progress to the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee.

The EU has committed to carry out a study on how to implement the findings by the end of 2022 and to propose new measures to address the issue, ‘if appropriate’, by the end of 2023.

Bechtel added: “The EU has committed to a fixed timetable to address the ACCC’s findings and the clock is ticking. People and civil society organisations are going to be a core part of the EU’s ability to live up to its own Green Deal and it’s vital that they have access to justice to hold decision-makers to account for illegal subsidies to the most polluting industries.”


About ClientEarth

ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.