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Protecting the planet: a lawyer’s view

For almost a decade, ClientEarth has been using the law to protect people and the planet. In an interview with Legal Dialogue, two of our lawyers, Anaïs Berthier and Anna Heslop, speak about their work on access to justice and clean air.

Anaïs Berthier leads the environmental democracy team at ClientEarth. Focusing on access to justice, she uses the Aarhus Convention to ensure people have information and access to the courts to enforce environment laws.

In March 2017, ClientEarth won a case against the EU after the UN Aarhus committee ruled that the EU is blocking access to the courts, breaching the convention. This was the result of a nine-year battle for access to justice.

We are one of the only organisations ensuring that the Aarhus Convention – the right to access justice and information on the environment – is upheld throughout Europe and crucially, by the EU institutions themselves.

We use it to protect the environment in court, for example on air pollution which Anna Heslop has helped lead.

Using our legal expertise and knowledge, we initiated legal action against the UK Government over their failure to comply with EU limits for nitrogen dioxide in the air. In April 2015, Supreme Court judges ruled in our favour, ordering Government ministers to come up with a plan to bring air pollution within legal limits “as soon as possible”.

The Government did not deliver, the plans they brought were so woefully inadequate that we knew we had to take them back to court. This was the only way to enforce people’s right to breathe clean air.

In November last year we won our second case, a major victory for the environment and for public health.

ClientEarth CEO, James Thornton, recently charted the environment charity’s journey in a new book, which you can buy here.

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Sarah Hina