14 March 2019
ClientEarth lawyers have launched a guide to assist legal professionals and organisations in Europe take legal action to protect the environment.
The guide highlights the EU-level legal framework which allows members of the public to challenge violations of environmental law.
Access to justice in environmental matters is a right guaranteed by the international Aarhus Convention, ratified by the EU and its member states with the goal of improving environmental democracy.
Several pieces of EU legislation and the case law of the Court of Justice of the EU provide for access to justice to a certain extent but are unequally applied and respected throughout the Union.
ClientEarth environmental democracy lawyer Anaïs Berthier said: “Europe’s environment is rapidly deteriorating and its strong set of environmental laws is not properly implemented. National authorities are not doing enough to tackle the problem. Now more than ever, we need public involvement to make sure environmental law is respected in Europe.
“This practical guide is unique as it collates the case law of the EU courts detailing how members of public must have access to courts as well as the findings of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee interpreting the relevant provisions of the Aarhus Convention. It is the only document that captures both sources of interpretation of these rights.
“The guide is meant to ensure that all the relevant stakeholders – judges, public authorities, public interest lawyers - are aware of the principles, rules and rulings that are adopted at international and EU level and which ensure access to justice in environmental matters.”
ClientEarth’s Access to Justice in European Union law guide is part of the ATOJ-EARL (Access to Justice – Education and Awareness raising of Legal professionals) project on improving Access to justice for a greener Europe, which is led by ClientEarth and Justice and Environment with the support of the European Commission LIFE programme. The goal of this project is to raise awareness and train legal professionals on access to justice in eight European member states.
Access to Justice is a fundamental means through which citizens and NGOs can support the implementation and enforcement of laws and policies to protect the environment. The goal of this ATOJ-EARL project is to achieve “Access to Justice for a Greener Europe”. It strives to enhance access to justice in environmental matters by providing information, training and support for the judiciary, public authorities and lawyers of eight European member states. ClientEarth and Justice and Environment are implementing this project with the financial support of the European Commission’s LIFE instrument.