What plans are there for an 'Aarhus Centre' in the United Kingdom?

Alan Rundle made this Freedom of Information request to Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

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Dear Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,

Considering that the UK has been a Party to the United Nations''Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters' (the Aarhus Convention) for nearly ten years, what plans are there to establish an Aarhus Centre in the UK?

There are 47 Parties to the Aarhus Convention; the UK, the EU as an institution, and 45 other nations. Many other countries have Aarhus Centres, providing information about the Aarhus Convention.

The UK's environmental law is dualistic, comprising Domestic (UK) law AND International Law (the Aarhus Convention).

Domestic law has to reach the standards of the Aarhus Convention.

What assurances can you provide that local authorities are implementing the Aarhus Conventions requirements in terms of:

(a) Providing access to environmental information;
(b) Providing effective opportunities to participate in environmental decision-making when all options are open; and
(c) Providing members of the public with access to justice in environmental matters?

What efforts is the UK government taking to remove or reduce financial and other barriers to access to justice in environmental matters, as required by the Aarhus Convention (Article 9, paragraph 5)?
Yours faithfully,

Alan Rundle

Azam, Ahmed (DEFRA), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

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Dear Mr Rundle

 

I am responding to your email of 13 February (attached) as the UK National
Focal Point to the UNECE Aarhus Convention. I have treated your email as a
Treat Official and not a FOIA request.

 

You asked three questions. I will address each in turn.

 

You asked about an Aarhus Centre in the UK. The Defra position – that
there are currently no plans to open an Aarhus Centre in the UK – remains
the same as that outlined in Brian Ruddie’s email to you dated 23 January
2015.

 

The UK ratified the Aarhus Convention in 2005. The UK’s policy on
ratifying international agreements is to do so once measures are in place
to ensure that the obligations they contain are met.  In this context,
this means the rights in the Convention ie access to information, public
participation in decision making and access to justice in environmental
matters are delivered through legislation and case law. You can access the
UK National Implementation Report [1]here for further information.  Where
public authorities fall short of their legal requirements relevant to the
Convention there are domestic remedies that can be pursued. As you know
from your recent communication there is also recourse to the Aarhus
Convention Compliance Committee.  

 

Turning to your final point where you asked “what efforts is the UK
government taking to remove or reduce financial and other barriers to
access to justice in environmental matters, as required by the Aarhus
Convention (Article 9, paragraph 5)?”, I can confirm that the Government
has, in line with the requirements set out in the Convention in [2]article
9(5), considered the establishment of appropriate assistance mechanisms to
remove or reduce financial and other barriers to access to justice,
including through the establishment of costs protection provisions in the
Civil Procedure Rules for judicial reviews which are Aarhus Convention
claims.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Ahmed

 

 

Ahmed Azam

UK National Focal Point to the UNECE Aarhus Convention

Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

Nobel House (Area 2D)

17 Smith Square

London

SW1P 3JR

 

t:   +44 (0) 207 238 5850

m: +44 (0) 7785 413 844

e:   [3][email address]

 

 

 

 

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References

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1. http://apps.unece.org/ehlm/pp/nir/listnr...
2. http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/env/p...
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