New project will help Europeans go to court to protect the environment

Europeans should be able to bring environmental cases to court more easily in future, as ClientEarth and Justice and Environment have jointly launched the “Access to Justice for a greener Europe” (A2J EARL) project.

It aims to improve the implementation and enforcement of environmental law in EU countries by making sure the public can challenge law breaking in court. The project focuses on informing judges, public authorities and public interest lawyers about the legal possibilities available for citizens and NGOs to help protect the environment through access to justice.

ClientEarth senior lawyer Anaïs Berthier said:

“There are still too many hurdles to access to justice throughout the EU which prevent individuals and NGOs from challenging decisions adopted in breach of environmental legislation. We want to prevent such blockages and make sure the right for people to challenge local authorities’ decisions is respected.”

Individuals and NGOs are often blocked from bringing cases to court. Most of the time, lack of information and awareness is to blame for this democratic deficit.

The idea behind this project is to improve implementation of EU environmental law by providing people and NGOs with an effective right to review administrative decisions that affect the environment.

This right, which should apply in all EU member states, is guaranteed by a number of legal provisions, such as the ‘Aarhus Convention’ and various EU directives as well as strong case law from the Court of Justice of the European Union and the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee.

The project spans Austria, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Spain. To keep the audience up to date with legal developments about access to justice, it features tools like a series of 48 workshops and seminars held nationally, a legal handbook, country toolkits and a monthly newsletter. It is a three-year project funded by LIFE, the financial instrument of the European Commission.

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