Association Justice & Environment together with NGO Client Earth are carrying out an EU LIFE programme financed project called “Education and Awareness Raising of Legal Professionals on Access to Justice”. The project is carried out in eight countries – Austria, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Spain.

Access to justice in environmental matters is an EU-wide and, indeed, a global issue. This project will act as a pilot project, with the intention to replicate the project in other EU areas. To assist with the replicability and transferability, pilot Member States differ in context, size, duration of EU membership, and represent both unitary as well as federal legal systems. These varying contexts will ensure that by the end of the project, a strong basis has been created for replicating similar activities in other EU countries and regions in a way that best matches the specific contexts of these countries.

Objective of the project:

The project aims to improve the implementation and enforcement of EU environmental law by providing the public with effective access to justice, such as judicial review, administrative review and complaints to other appeal bodies. 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. In order to reach this long-term goal, the project aims to:

  • Increase awareness of existing rules and case-law on access to justice in environmental matters for specific target audiences – the judiciary, bodies responsible for the administration of justice, public interest lawyers and public administrations;

  • Increase understanding of the importance of ensuring proper access to justice for the implementation of EU environmental laws and policies;

  • Increase understanding of specific challenges and obstacles to proper access to justice in environmental matters both at national and EU level; and

  • Increase knowledge and capacity for overcoming legal (both substantial and procedural) challenges and obstacles to effective access to justice in the environmental field. 

Duration:

Second half of 2017 - June 2020

Beneficiaries:
Coordinator: Association Justice & Environment, z.s.
Partner: Client Earth, United Kingdom
Affiliates: Environmental Management and Law Association, Hungary
Estonian Environmental Law Center, Estonia
Instituto Internacional de Derecho y Medio Ambiente, Spain
Unabhängiges Institut für Unweltfragen, Germany
Via Iuris, Slovakia
Ökobüro, Austria

Financing:

The project is financed by EU LIFE programme by 678 098 euros and co-financed by Association Justice & Environment z.s. 88 561 euros and Client Earth 364 800 euros.

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The  Team

The project team consists of environmental law experts from 8 organisations, one of them acting as a coordinating beneficiary
and another as a partner/associated beneficiary and the rest being member organisations (affiliates) of Association Justice and Environment.

 

J&E was established in 2003 during the enlargement process of European Union. Justice & Environment (J&E) is a European Network of Environmental Law Organisations. Currently J&E has 13 member organizations (MO) in total from Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain. All MOs are either entirely focused on environmental law or it is one of their focuses. J&E lawyers are seasoned environmental law experts, experienced within their national legal systems, familiar with challenges faced by their respective communities and well aware of the EU legal framework. Its membership base allows J&E to bridge EU and national issues of environmental law and participation. Patterned on this, J&E analyses the EU system of participation in environmental matters, mainly in a form of comparative legal studies and proposes policy improvements / recommendations to decision-makers. Access to justice in environmental matters is one of J&E’s major focus areas.


Webpage: www.justiceandenvironment.org

Responsibilities in the project:

J&E acts as a coordinating beneficiary, taking care of the project’s day-to-day management of the project’s activities, incl reporting, financial management and providing legal expertise through its affiliates participating in the project. Affiliates of J&E will be in charge of national level activities in EstoniaHungarySpainAustriaGermany and Slovakia.

  • Consultations with key stakeholders to identify current obstacles to effective access to justice in the environmental field;
  • Legal analysis of national legislation and case law ;
  • Compilation of national guidelines for access to justice in environmental matters for stakeholders;
  • Workshops on access to justice in the field of environmental matters with the focus on EU and national legislation and case law, the problems in national legal practice and their possible solutions.

Team of the project:

Csaba Kiss, Coordinator, info@justiceandenvironment.org, phone +361 322 8462

Lubica Mockova, Financial Manager, finance@justiceandenvironment.org, phone +420 774 130 730

Katre Liiv, Communications, communications@justiceandenvironment.org, phone +372 50 76519

ClientEarth is a non-profit European environmental law organisation that seeks to achieve a high level of environmental protection through ambitious legislation and policies, and to raise awareness of the importance of full and effective implementation of environmental law.


Webpage: www.clientearth.org 

Responsibilities in the project:

CE is responsible for

  • the monthly newsletter about the latest updates on access to justice;
  • the handbook on access to justice EU procedural rules and case law and the Aarhus Convention equivalents;
  • the digital information platform with an "ask a lawyer" service;
  • the public interest lawyer database regrouping lawyers active in the field of environmental law;
  • the webinars;
  • EU-wide conference held in Brussels;
  • the events organized in France and Poland;
  • the country toolkits for France and Poland.

Team of the project:

Anais Berthier, Senior Lawyer/Juriste, Project lead
Anne Friel, Lawyer
Kristina Gasparovicova, Coordinator
Diane Vandesmet, Communications

Environmental Management and Law Association (EMLA) is a non-profit non-governmental organization working in environmental law and environmental management on national, European and international levels. The main activities of EMLA are public interest environmental legal advice and litigation, environmental legal research, consulting and education, and carrying out of environmental management projects. EMLA is a founding member of The Access Initiative in addition to being a member of the European Environmental Bureau and the Nuclear Transparency Watch. The EMLA Foundation established by the EMLA Association is active in environmental education.

EMLA is a founding member of Justice and Environment.

Webpage: www.emla.hu

Responsibilities in the project:

  • Consultations with key stakeholders to identify current obstacles to effective access to justice in the environmental field;
  • Legal analysis of national legislation and case law ;
  • Compilation of national guidelines for access to justice in environmental matters for stakeholders;
  • Workshops on access to justice in the field of environmental matters with the focus on EU and national legislation and case law, the problems in national legal practice and their possible solutions.

Team of the project:

Csaba Kiss, drkiss@emla.hu

Sandor Fulop, sandor@emla.hu

Estonian Environmental Law Center (EELC) was founded in 2007 by an environmental NGO Estonian Fund for Nature (ELF) and 3 public interest environmental lawyers. It is an independent expert organization. EELC’s aim is to shape environmental law rules and their application in Estonia in a manner that takes due account of public interests (health and well-being of citizens, biodiversity).

EELC is a member of Justice and Environment.

Webpage: www.k6k.ee

Responsibilities in the project:

  • A roundtable with the key specialists to identify current obstacles to effective access to justice in the environmental field;

  • Legal analysis of Estonian case law related to judicial remedies in environmental matters, such as the application of injunctive relief;

  • Compilation of Estonian guidelines for access to justice in environmental matters to specialists;

  • Training courses on access to justice in the field of environmental matters with the focus on legislation, EU and Estonian case law, the problems in Estonian legal practice and their possible solutions.

Team of the project:

Kadi-Kaisa Kaljuveer, Lawyer / Project Manager in Estonia, kadikaisa(at)k6k.ee, phone +372 56 667 992

Siim Vahtrus, Lawyer, siim@k6k.ee, phone +372 55 683 880

Pille Priks, Assistant, pille@k6k.ee

The law is a fundamental tool in the protection of our the environment. However, in order to guarantee this, it is necessary that its application and use is continually monitored — By not doing so, the destruction of our environment is sure to continue.  Thus, over two decades ago, a group of legal and environmental-law professionals formed the International Institute for Law and the Environment to respond directly to this necessity.

IIDMA designs and launches its own projects as well as attends to the requests from public and private institutions and organizations requiring support in environmental law and policies.

IIDMA is a member of Justice and Environment.

Webpage: www.iidma.org

Responsibilities in the project:

  • Consultations with key stakeholders to identify current obstacles to effective access to justice in the environmental field;
  • Legal analysis of national legislation and case law ;
  • Compilation of national guidelines for access to justice in environmental matters for stakeholders;
  • Workshops on access to justice in the field of environmental matters with the focus on EU and national legislation and case law, the problems in national legal practice and their possible solutions.

Team of the project:

Ana Barreira, ana.barreira@iidma.org

Alba Iranzo, alba.iranzo@iidma.org

The Independent Institute for Environmental Issues (UfU e.V.) is both a scientific and officially recognized non-governmental organization. UfU is mainly working on research assignments and model projects financed by federal ministries, federal states and municipalities as well as foundations. In addition to its scientific activities, the institute initiates and engages in local and international projects and networks.

UfU is a member of Justice and Environment.

Webpage: www.ufu.de

Responsibilities in the project:

  • Consultations with key stakeholders to identify current obstacles to effective access to justice in the environmental field;
  • Legal analysis of national legislation and case law ;
  • Compilation of national guidelines for access to justice in environmental matters for stakeholders;
  • Workshops on access to justice in the field of environmental matters with the focus on EU and national legislation and case law, the problems in national legal practice and their possible solutions.

Team of the project:

Karl Stracke, karl.stracke@ufu.de

Franziska Sperfeld, franziska.sperfeld@ufu.de

VIA IURIS was established in 1993 and as a civil society organization, our conduct is strictly non-governmental, not-for-profit and non-partisan. As an expert legal organization, we use the law as instrument of justice. We bring systemic solutions and promote equal application of law for all.

Our mission is to promote effective public participation in decision and policy making and systemic measures to strengthen the independence of courts, public prosecution and police.

We use mostly legal tools to fulfil our mission. We litigate strategic cases of major public interest, propose and advocate for improved legislation, provide citizens with legal assistance, prepare legal analyses and organize international conferences.

Webpage: www.viaiuris.sk

Responsibilities in the project:

  • Consultations with key stakeholders to identify current obstacles to effective access to justice in the environmental field;
  • Legal analysis of national legislation and case law ;
  • Compilation of national guidelines for access to justice in environmental matters for stakeholders;
  • Workshops on access to justice in the field of environmental matters with the focus on EU and national legislation and case law, the problems in national legal practice and their possible solutions.

Team of the project:

Imrich Vozár, Lawyer, vozar@viaiuris.sk

Ivana Figuli, Project Assistant and Coordinator, figuli@viaiuris.sk
 

OEKOBUERO is the alliance of the Austrian Environmental Movement. It is comprised of 17 Austrian organizations engaged in environmental, nature and animal protection like GLOBAL 2000 (Friends of the Earth Austria), FOUR PAWS, Greenpeace and WWF. OEKOBUERO works on the political and legal level for the interests of the environmental movement.

OEKOBUERO is a member of Justice and Environment.

Webpage: www.oekobuero.at

Responsibilities in the project:

  • Consultations with key stakeholders to identify current obstacles to effective access to justice in the environmental field;
  • Legal analysis of national legislation and case law;
  • Compilation of national guidelines for access to justice in environmental matters for stakeholders;
  • Workshops on access to justice in the field of environmental matters with the focus on EU and national legislation and case law, the problems in national legal practice and their possible solutions.

Team of the project:

Katharina Scharfetter, katharina.scharfetter@oekobuero.at 

Gregor Schamschula, gregor.schamschula@oekobuero.at

Priska Lueger, priska.lueger@oekobuero.at

  • To achieve the aim and objectives of the project Education and Awareness Raising of Legal Professionals on Access to Justice which is a communications and raising awareness project, focusing on improving implementation and enforcement of EU law via promoting access to justice, the participating organisations in 8 countries carry out four main activities:

     

    • Legal analysis of the main sources of interpretation of the access to justice rights in environmental matters.
    • Development and dissemination of awareness-raising materials for the judiciary, bodies responsible for the administration of justice, public administrations, and public interest lawyers, eg a handbook on access to justice provisions in EU law and the Aarhus Convention and toolkits on access to justice issues in target Member States.
    • Preparation and delivery of training on access to justice in the field of environment.
    • Facilitating knowledge sharing between and within target audience and stakeholder groups on access to justice.

    In addition project activities include communication activities, project management and coordination. The project team will also monitor the impact of the project’s activities on the target audience - the judiciary, public interest lawyers, bodies responsible for the administration of justice, public administration bodies.

    Activities continued after the end of the project will be maintaining the availability of electronic materials, updating of the electronic materials and further awareness-raising and capacity-building of the target audiences. At the latest stages as well as partly after the project, the deliverables and lessons of the project will be actively disseminated to several stakeholders who can make best use of them, eg the European Commission, NGO community and audiencies outside the project countries.

Access to justice

Access to justice – the so-called third pillar of the Aarhus Convention* – is widely acknowledged as being by far the weakest, least implemented part of the Convention. This is not just a problem in and of itself, but undercuts the implementation of the other two pillars, namely access to information and public participation. Where there is no legal recourse to challenge violations of these provisions, they can easily become meaningless, pure paper promises. But the access to justice pillar goes further than these two pillars – and should allow members of the public to also challenge acts and omissions by private persons and public authorities which contravene provisions of national law relating to the environment.

It is about whether NGOs or individuals can make the government live up to its promises to clean the air so that people’s health isn’t damaged; to ensure that traffic and waste don’t overwhelm cities; to ensure that polluters have to pay for the damage they caused.

*The Aarhus Convention, which was signed in 1998 and entered into force in 2001, has represented something quite incredible from its very first inception, namely an instrument linking environmental rights and human rights. The Convention is essentially built on three pillars: (1) access to information; (2) public participation in decisions on specific activities; and (3) access to justice.

Access to justice in environmental matters means the right of citizens to go to court to challenge the environmental decisions.

Along with right to environmental information and participation in environmental decision- making, access to justice in environmental matters is regulated by the Aarhus Convention adopted in 1998.

As of February 2018, all 28 Member States as well as the EU itself, are Parties to the Convention. Moreover, based on this Convention, the EU has adopted a number of legal acts containing rules on access to justice at national level:

  • Environmental Information Directive – provides the right of review in case a request for information has been ignored, wrongfully refused (whether in full or in part), inadequately answered or otherwise not dealt with.

  • Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive – provides members of the public with the right to challenge the substantive or procedural legality of decisions, acts or omissions subject to the public participation provisions of that Directive.

  • Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) – provides members of the public with the right to challenge the substantive or procedural legality of decisions, acts or omissions related to the permitting of facilities required to hold integrated environmental permits.

  • Environmental Liability Directive (ELD) – provides affected persons and NGOs with the right of review of the procedural and substantive legality of decisions, acts or failures to act of competent authorities in relation to environmental liability cases.

See also the cases in countries participating in the project.

The body of EU environmental policy and regulation is one of the most advanced and comprehensive in the world. Relying on the principles of a high level of environmental protection and integration of environmental concerns in different policy fields and decision-making, as well as the precautionary principle, it has the potential to ensure truly sustainable development in the EU. Yet, despite this, Europe’s environment is rapidly deteriorating.

Strong legislative and policy frameworks are not providing the results they should, because they are not properly implemented. An implementation gap has become evident. This has been confirmed by studies carried out on behalf of or by the European Commission. This is both an environmental and a socio-economic problem. A 2011 estimate put the cost of poor implementation of EU environmental laws at around €50 billion a year. The lack of implementation of EU environmental laws also erodes the rule of law and <input type="image" name="_saveandclosedok" src="http://www.justiceandenvironment.org/typo3/clear.gif" title="Save and close document" />public trust in both national authorities and the EU.

Experience across EU Member States has shown that relying solely on public authorities to overcome the implementation gap of EU environmental laws will not yield the required results. Therefore, active citizens, either acting on their own or via NGOs, are essential to support or even substitute actions from the authorities. There are many ways in which this “citizen enforcement” could take place. However, in order to be truly effective, it needs to involve access to judicial review.

The necessity of this is acknowledged in a number of legal provisions as well as the case-law of various judicial and quasi-judicial bodies at international or supranational level. The UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters of 1998 (the ‘Aarhus Convention’) requires its parties to provide members of the public with effective access to justice in environmental matters.

Access to justice is needed to ensure that public authorities live up to their obligations under environmental law, that they for example take the steps required by law to clean up the air or protect bodies of water. It is also needed to make sure that polluters are held to account. Finally, it's also needed to protect the rights of people and NGOs to have information about the things affecting their environment, and to have a voice in environmental decision-making.

Lack of awareness is a the main problem in practice. The EU has not yet issued legislation that would provide a general framework for access to justice to challenge all infringements of environmental laws, as provided in Article 9(3) of the Aarhus Convention. However, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has ruled that Member States are nonetheless obliged to interpret their existing national laws in line with the requirements of the Convention, and where this is not possible, must disapply these laws by their own motion. This general legal framework has been further clarified by a strong body of case-law of both the CJEU and the quasi-judicial Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee (ACCC), which has provided important criteria for assessing whether access to justice provided can be considered to be truly effective. Above-mentioned rules and case-law should in theory guarantee that members of the public can participate in the enforcement of EU environmental laws, also using legal means if necessary. In practice, however, this is not always the case. Numerous studies, including the 2012/2013 access to justice studies (the ‘Darpö studies’) carried out on behalf of the Commission demonstrate that there are still significant hurdles to effective access to justice.

Changes in the behaviour of not only judges, but also bodies responsible for the administration of justice, public administrations and public interest environmental lawyers are dependent on greater

awareness of both the barriers that may exist in practice as well as legal rules and case-law that enable them to be overcome. Even though many legal professionals may be aware of the general rules governing access to justice in environmental matters, awareness of the essential case-law is

considerably lower, especially among public administrations and public interest environmental lawyers. This can prove to be a significant bottleneck to providing effective access to justice. For example, the Darpö study concluded that, in Spain, national courts have not used EU law arguments to widen the scope of standing since Spain ratified the Aarhus Convention, as judges (mistakenly) perceive the national laws to be compliant with Aarhus Convention and EU laws.

The low level of awareness and knowledge on the correct interpretations of the Aarhus Convention and related EU laws are further evidenced by the high number of referrals for preliminary rulings before the CJEU regarding the access to justice provisions of the EIA Directive as well as access to justice issues related to challenging breaches of other EU directives such as the Habitats Directive. These referrals clearly demonstrate that there are still many questions within the judiciary and other legal professionals in different Member States, which need to be addressed. There is also little awareness of best practice or of cost-effective solutions in providing effective access to justice in different Member States.

First of all, countries and individual actors should recognize that where the Aarhus Convention has been actually implemented, and specifically where NGOs have been given effective access to justice rights, this has led to better results overall. Not just for the environment, but this has helped economic actors and others enormously in terms of legal certainty. There seems to be a lot of fear-mongering going on – the argument that giving NGOs access to justice rights will necessarily lead to blocking all projects, and lengthened procedures in all cases is however simply not borne out. NGOs very selectively involve themselves at any rate. Moreover, having clear rules for their participation and judicial review will not lead to increased litigation, as the EC’s own analysis has shown.

Second, and a related point, countries should look beyond their borders and be prepared to learn from other examples. There are indeed good practice examples which can be learned from and adapted.

Finally, there are a lot of resources out there which provide clear guidance. Some of these sources countries just can’t ignore, like the CJEU Opinions in C-243/15 and C-664/15. These cases are in their narrow sense about nature protection and water law, but it is pretty clear from these cases what is generally expected from Member States. If any doubt persists, then the Commission’s Notice on Access to Justice in Environmental Matters provides further guidance, as do the extensive and consistent Findings of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee.

Associated beneficiary:

​Anais Berthier, Project Manager, ABerthier@clientearth.org, phone: +44 (0) 20 7749 5970

Coordinating beneficiary:

Csaba Kiss, Project Manager, info@justiceandenvironment.org, phone: +36 1 322 8462

Communications and media relations:

Diane Vandesmet, Communications, dvandesmet@clientearth.org, phone: +44 (0) 207749 5970

 

What will the new Hungarian law on administrative courts bring for access to justice?  / 15 January 2019

After much protest from the opposition parties in the Parliament, the Government’s overwhelming majority voted in favor of a new law (Act of Parliament No. 130 of 2018 on Administrative Courts) that will set up separate courts for adjudicating in administrative matters. On 12th December 2018, the main hall of the House of Parliament in Budapest was the scene of a loud and lively protest by opposition MPs before voting on a number of bills submitted by the Orban Government. Read more

Aarhus+20 and the first Hungarian training in the EARL project / 21 November 2018

The year 2018 is a special one in the life of the Aarhus family. We celebrate the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Convention, or as we say, its 20th Birthday.

There were a number of memorial events throughout the year, most prominently the event in May in Rome, organized by the Italian Ministry of Environment, Land and Sea and the June special session of the Working Group of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention in Geneva.

Countries parties to the Convention also celebrate this important date, e.g. in Hungary, the Deputy Ombudsman for Future Generations initiated a cooperation with J&E’s Hungarian member organization EMLA to hold a joint session on the achievements of the Aarhus Convention in Hungary.

As the organization of the event started, it quickly became obvious that what else could serve better to kick-off the series of 6 training sessions to be held in Hungary under the auspices of the EARL project than this occasion. All ingredients were present: a prestigious venue (the Ombudsman Office), prominent presenters (the Deputy Ombudsman for Future Generations, a former and a current ACCC member, university professors and practicing environmental lawyers) and a large audience (50+ participants).

The meeting was held on 21 November in Budapest and approximately 50 persons attended it, mainly coming from the regional environmental competent authorities all across the country, but the judiciary, the academia and the civil sector were also represented.

Presentations in the morning segment of the day were largely about bringing up memories on how people remember the process leading to and surrounding the adoption of the text of the Convention. Witnesses of past who were even involved in the drafting of the first textual version of the Convention shared their memories on the events long gone.

The afternoon session was the actual training component of the meeting. As a starting point, a sociologist described why people want to participate and what patterns can be identified in participatory processes. Legal and practical barriers of access to justice were identified, together with provisions of the Convention and adjacent case law that helps members of the public participate in environmental decision-making. An EU and Visegrad 4 outlook on how other countries regulate and practice access to justice closed the day where participants were asked to fill in an evaluation questionnaire.

The event was publicized on the Facebook page of the Ombudsman Office, the Facebook page of EMLA  and of Justice and Environment .

Germany discusses access to justice in first project workshop led by UfU e. V. / 5 June 2018

On 29 May 2018 the Independent Institute for Environmental Issues (UfU) e.V. held a workshop entitled “Sufficient Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Germany?“ (“Ausreichender Zugang zu Gericht in Umweltangelegenheiten?“). Twenty two participants from various environmental associations, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, lawyers, judges and representatives from research and academia discussed the challenges experienced with regard to access to justice in environmental matters. Read more 

Roman Anniversary of the Aarhus Convention / 4 June 2018

The process leading up to the signing of the Aarhus Convention is already history. This historical moment was recently reenacted when people who are also part of history met in Rome, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the treaty that is officially called the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters. Read more

Let the digital quest for justice for all leave no one behind / 15 May 2018

The rallying cry of “justice for all” is synonymous with human rights and civil movements throughout history, and even a 1988 album title for heavy metal band Metallica. The push for universal justice is just as important online, especially as so much of our legal work occurs digitally. We’re currently witnessing the pros and cons of this digital revolution firsthand. Environmental NGOs have long demanded easy access to information, opportunities to participate or access to justice. This may include easily accessible online data, online participatory options (e.g. submitting comments in Environmental Impact Assessment procedures via email) or even electronic access to courts. Read more

Spain duscusses issues on access to justice during first national workshop / 4 May 2018

On 25 April, the Instituto Internacional de Derecho y Medio Ambiente (IIDMA), the Spanish partner of the A2J-EARL Project, hosted the launch event of the project at the European Commission Representation office in Madrid, Spain. It was a successful national workshop, which covered the status and main barriers on access to justice in environmental matters in Spain. Read more 

Slovak Regional Court ignores CJEU case law to deny access to justice / 12 April 2018

Via Iuris/ Justice & Environment Slovakia is going to challenge regional Court’s decision denying citizens legal standing to challenge construction works close to protected areas. Via Iuris has provided legal assistance to socially engaged natural scientists in recent cases. One of them concerned the construction of a residence and relax zone Blatnica-Sebeslavce, in the northern region of Slovakia. Read more 

Years of legal battle ended with granting Austrian NGOs access to justice / 26 March 2018

A case by ÖKOBÜRO /Justice & Environment Austria has finally reached a verdict after years of legal battle for access to justice. The ruling was issued in February 2018 following a complaint by ÖKOBÜRO from 2015. Back then, the NGO tried to challenge measures in an air quality plan for the region of Salzburg, as in their eyes it was not sufficient to reach a reasonable level of air pollution. Read more

Supreme Administrative Court of Poland denies local resident the right to challenge air quality program /
9 March 2018

In January 2018 the Supreme Administrative Court of Poland upheld the decision of the Regional Administrative Court denying standing to a resident of the town of Rybnik, in the region of Silesia, Poland, to challenge the air quality program adopted by the Silesian Regional Assembly in 2014 for the region of Silesia (hereinafter referred to as the program). The adoption of the program was required by law due to illegal levels of PM2.5, PM10 and B(a)P in ambient air in Silesia. ClientEarth intervened in the case to support the resident’s claim. Read more
 

Slovakia debates local issues on access to justice / 28 February 2018

Slovakian organisation Via Iuris held its first national workshop about access to justice in environmental matters on February 22nd in Bratislava. An opportunity to raise local barriers and debate with professionals. Fourteen people attended this meeting, which brought together the most relevant professionals on access to justice in the country. Recognized expert on environmental law, the Supreme Court’s judge Miroslav Gavalec attended the workshop along with Supreme Court judge Marián Trenčan. Read more 

Successful kick-off meeting of the EARL project in Hungary / 28 February 2018

On the 20th of February, a cold and snowy Tuesday, Hungarian Environmental management and law association held a successful national workshop in Budapest about access to justice in environmental matters. An event that a month ago originally started as a closed meeting of approximately twenty main stakeholders soon became a major mini-conference on the status of access to justice in Hungary with more than forty-five participants, due to the high level of interest in the matter. Read more

New project will help Europeans go to court to protect the environment / 19 January 2018

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. Read more

Developments on access to justice in 2017: focus on Austria, Germany, Estonia, Hungary, Slovakia and Spain /
2 January 2018

As 2018 has just begun let’s step back a little and see how the situation on access to justice in environmental matters developed last year, focussing on six (out of eight) European member states involved in the “Access to Justice for a greener Europe” project : Austria, Germany, Estonia, Hungary, Slovakia and Spain. Read more

Access to justice for a greener Europe / 27 October 2017

While the body of EU environmental policy and regulation is one of the most advanced and comprehensive in the world, an implementation gap has become evident. Strong legislative and policy frameworks are not providing the results that they should because they are not properly implemented. Experience across EU Member States has shown that relying solely on public authorities to overcome the implementation deficit will not yield the required results. Therefore, active citizens, either acting on their own or via NGOs, are essential to support the actions of authorities. There are many ways in which such ‘citizen enforcement’ could take place. However, in order to be truly effective, it needs to involve access to judicial review. Read more

Our Belgian member organization Inter-Environnement Wallonie changed its name and accordingly, its logo, too. Farewell, IEW - welcome, Canopea! https://www.canopea.be/

J&E presented a statement on national environmental and climate planning at the Public Participation Task Force Meeting of the Aarhus Convention (https://unece.org/info/Environmental-Policy/Public-Participation/events/369122). You can read the statement here or on the website of J&E (www.justiceandenvironment.org).

Litigation success regarding Austrian wolves: Hunting permits no longer enforceable in Tyrol In connection with a hunting permit for a pair of wolves, the Provincial Court of Tyrol (Austria) has upheld an appeal by J&E member ÖKOBÜRO, WWF Austria, Umweltdachverband and Naturschutzbund Austria. It also recognized the suspensive effect of an appeal against the hunting permit for a wolf. By decision of August 22nd, 2022, the Provincial Court of Tyrol overturned the decision of the Tyrolean provincial government on the killing of a pair of wolves. According to the contested decision, the male wolf and the female wolf would have been allowed to be shot in three hunting sub-areas in the East Tyrolean municipalities of Lavant, Tristach and Nikolsdorf until October 31st. Now the Provincial Court of Tyrol has referred the matter back to the authority for a new decision. The Provincial Court based its decision on the fact that it could not guarantee that only the wolf individuals causing damage and not mistakenly another wolf was shot. In fact, another wolf has been identified in the area in question. In all likelihood, this is a puppy of the wolf pair in question and thus the first proven reproduction in the alpine area of Austria. In addition, on July 29, 2022, another wolf was released for shooting for a limited period until the end of October. ÖKOBÜRO, WWF; Austria, Naturschutzbund and Umweltdachverband have achieved with their complaints that this wolf may not be shot for the time being – at least as long as the complaint procedure is ongoing. This ensures that no shooting can take place on the basis of illegal permits. Consequently this means that the hunting permits concerning the three wolves are no longer enforceable. Since there was no wolf population in the Austrian Alpine region until now, the cancellation of the hunting permit for the two parent animals is a success for the protection of the species!

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Espoo Implementation Committee considers lifetime extensions of Czech nuclear reactors At its 53rd session in May 2022, the Espoo Implementation Committee considered a complaint by J&E member ÖKOBÜRO and GLOBAL 2000 (Friends of the Earth Austria) regarding the lifetime extension of the Czech nuclear power plant Dukovany. The complainants had criticized the lack of a transboundary environmental impact assessment when prolonging the licences for several reactors for an unlimited time. At its meeting, the Committee concluded that this prolongation constituted a major change to an activity listed in appendix I to the Convention on transboundary impact assessment (Espoo Convention) that was likely to cause a significant adverse transboundary impact. It thus began a Committee initiative on the matter as the case gave reason to assume non-compliance by the Czech Republic with its obligation under the Convention. Within this initiative, it will also examine the application of the Espoo Convention regarding the planned extension of two reactors of the Temelín NPP in Czechia. For further information see the Report of the Implementation Committee: https://unece.org/sites/default/files/2022-06/ece_mp.eia_ic_2022_4_advance_edited.pdf

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Read our latest report: Anti-SLAPP legislation in the US and Canada (http://www.justiceandenvironment.org/fileadmin/user_upload/Publications/Anti_SLAPP_legislation_in_the_US_and_Canada.pdf) For more information, visit our website or the one of CASE (www.the-case.eu).

News from Austria Strengthened participation rights for environmental organisations (May 2022) The Supreme Administrative Court of Austria (VwGH) made clear that environmental organisations may claim compliance with environmental protection requirements under EU law irrespective of the violation of their subjective rights. This is not limited to the objectives of Art. 11 of Directive 2011/21/EU on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment. Therefore, national legislation, implementing EU legislation in the field of the environment, as well as directly applicable provisions of EU environmental law can be invoked by environmental organisations.

Today, on 23.06.2022 the Extraordinary Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention elected the first ever Special Rapporteur of the Rapid Response Mechanism. J&E congratulates to Mr. Michel Forst for his election and wishes him success as well as offers its cooperation to him. (The Special Rapporteur will stand up against the persecution, penalization and harassment of environmental human rights defenders.)

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Court verdict: Czech government must urgently meet its climate commitments The Municipal Court in Prague today upheld the Czech Climate Litigation lawsuit in a landmark decision and ordered the state to urgently take the necessary measures to slow climate change in accordance with its obligations under European and international law. The courts in the Czech Republic have done so for the first time in history. The evidence showed that the Czech Republic's Climate Protection Policy, the government's strategy determining the Czech Republic's pace of greenhouse gas emission reductions, is not sufficient in terms of contribution of the Czech Republic to goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. If every country behaved in this way, crossing tipping points in the Earth's climate system would become inevitable, which would have a major negative impact on the ecosystem as a whole and on the international community, which includes the people of the Czech Republic. The plaintiffs convinced the court that the measures taken by the state so far are not sufficient to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990. State authorities are obliged to have a plan of precise and complete measures towards this goal, which is currently not the case. According to the court, the defendants have not provided legitimate reasons for their inaction. The court concluded that the objective of the Paris Agreement to keep the global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius is not legally binding, however the aforementioned national contribution is, and cannot be continually avoided. Avoiding fulfillment of the climate goals would threaten the plaintiffs' constitutionally guaranteed rights. The Court expressly finds that if the state had fulfilled its climate obligations, there would still be climate impacts, however they would be smaller. It also stated that the Czech Republic cannot absolve itself of its climate responsibility by reference to its relatively small contribution to global climate change. The plaintiffs were the Czech Climate Litigation - a civil association of over 260 citizens, joined by the municipality of Svatý Jan pod Skalou, which is struggling with the effects of ongoing climate change, and other plaintiffs, including foresters and farmers. The plaintiff group was represented in the proceedings by Frank Bold lawyers.

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News from Latin America on the Escazu Agreement The first meeting of the Conference of the Parties will take place between 20 and 22 April 2022 at ECLAC headquarters in Santiago (Chile) in a hybrid format. The Escazu Agreement is the Latin American and Caribbean equivalent of the Aarhus Convention. The Access Initiative and the World Resources Institute will organize a side event at the COP1. Please join TAI and WRI and partners UNEP / USEPA/ OGP in this event. Please register here to participate and the link to join: https://usepa.zoomgov.com/meeting/register/vJItf-GgpjwoE9ggeOBm9QKlxUwGDsoQtXg

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