31 March 2021
ClientEarth lawyers have launched a new edition of a guide to help people across the EU to access the courts to protect the environment. The guide is aimed at legal professionals acting on behalf of citizens and NGOs.
The goal of ClientEarth’s legal guide “Access to justice in European Union Law” is to empower members of the public to help tackle the poor implementation of EU environmental policies and regulation – which is costing the bloc an estimated €55 billion a year.
Decisions taken daily around the EU – like granting permits to log a protected forest in Poland or extend a giant plastics plant in Belgium – break the law. Public authorities cannot fill this implementation gap alone. Active citizens, acting either alone or via NGOs, must be empowered to play their role in protecting the environment.
This guide provides an overview of the EU-level legal framework, which allows me
ClientEarth environmental democracy lawyer Anne Friel said:
“The laws we need are often actually there on paper, it’s just that they are not being translated into action. Meanwhile, Europe’s environment is rapidly deteriorating. That’s why we need the public to hold public authorities accountable and challenge decisions that harm people’s health and the environment.
“This legal guide on access to justice gives fresh details on how members of the public can access the courts in EU law. It is a must-have for all legal professionals working to protect our environment.”
Access to justice in environmental matters is a fundamental right guaranteed by international treaty the 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 not applied and respected consistently throughout the Union.
“Access to justice is often overlooked as a right, including at the heart of the European Union. This guide is meant to ensure that all those involved in the legal process – 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 citizens can genuinely play their role when it comes to protecting the environment.”
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 environmental network Justice and Environment, with the support of the European Commission’s LIFE programme. The goal of this project is to raise awareness and train legal professionals on access to justice in eight EU member states.
For more information on access to justice issues at EU level, read that article.