Woman in yellow coat by red train for story saying New UN report is damning on UK environmental justice

New UN report criticises UK environmental justice

A new UN report has criticised the UK’s record on court access for people bringing environmental cases.

The Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee said the UK’s recent law reforms have ‘moved it further away’ from fulfilling its duty to let citizens go to court to protect their environment. It also reprimanded the UK for slow progress to date. The UK has not only dragged its feet, its compliance is actually now worse thanks to new court rules introduced in February this year.

ClientEarth lawyer Gillian Lobo said: “This report confirms that the UK is breaching its responsibility under international law, the Aarhus Convention, by failing to provide access to justice in environmental cases. It has been in breach for years, and recent reforms have made it even harder to go to court over issues like dirty air, polluting factories or endangered wildlife. The UK must act now to let people use the courts to protect their environment.”

The Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee first found the UK’s costs to be prohibitively expensive in 2014, after a complaint brought by ClientEarth, the Marine Conservation Society and Robert Latimer.

ClientEarth, Friends of the Earth and the RSPB took the UK government to court on 19 July 2017 over the new rules, which will have a chilling effect on environment legal cases. Since February this year, some legal costs can now can be changed at any stage in the proceedings. This means it is impossible to know how much a case will cost from the start, which is likely to deter people who want to go to court to protect the environment.

The campaigners call on the UK government to ensure environmental cases are not prohibitively expensive, and to remove or reduce financial and other barriers to justice.

David Wolfe QC and Andrew Parkinson represented the three organisations.

The judgment is expected this month.

Share this...
Share on Facebook! Tweet this! Share on LinkedIn! Email!


Related articles

More from

  • The challenge of challenging air quality programs in Poland – The Silesian air quality program and the issue of standing

    In February 2016, a resident of the town of Rybnik located in the region of Silesia, Poland, demanded that the Silesian Regional Assembly amend the air quality program it had adopted in 2014 for the region of Silesia.

  • Hinkley Point power station

    Case C-640/16 P, Greenpeace Energy v Commission, Judgment of 10 October 2017, ECLI:EU:C:2017:752

    The European Court of Justice has confirmed the inadmissibility of Greenpeace Energy’s application for annulment of the Commission’s decision approving State aid for the nuclear power plant, Hinkley Point C.

  • paris skyline

    Highest administrative court grants access to justice and upholds right to clean air in France

    On 11 July 2017, the Conseil d’État ordered the French government to produce plans to achieve air quality limit values in the shortest time possible.

  • European Parliament calls on the Commission to propose legislation on Access to Justice in Member States and the EU

    On 15 November, the European Parliament adopted Resolution 2017/2819 calling on the Commission to ensure better implementation of EU nature laws by proposing legislation on access to justice in Member States and the EU.

  • Follow us

    You can help

    Your support helps us use the law to protect your environment.