Your future, your environment, your health, your decision – what the Aarhus Convention means for you

Ian Carey News, Press Releases

Environmental Pillar press release, 24 September 2013

Every person has the right to a healthy environment, and the right to protect it – rights that have recently been recognised by Irish and international law. That’s the Environmental Pillar’s message at the National Ploughing Championships this week.

‘Members of the public now have their human rights extended to include three important rights. First, the right of access to environmental information at little or no cost. Second, the right to participate in decision-making that impacts on the environment and their health. Third, the right of access to justice that is effective and inexpensive, in order to protect the first two rights,’ said Michael Ewing, spokesperson for the Environmental Pillar.

‘Since Ireland ratified the Aarhus Convention, public authorities, including the semi-state companies are now required to provide environmental information on request at little or no cost and to involve the public in all decision-making that impacts on the environment,’ Mr Ewing said.

‘Do you want to know what impact activities in your area have on your environment and your health?  Do you want to participate in decisions that affect your environment, such as local transport works or a planning permission application?  Or would you simply like to know whether the river you swim in every summer is polluted?  If your answer is yes, then the Aarhus Convention is important for you,’ Mr Ewing said.

The Aarhus Convention is a United Nations treaty.  It lays down a set of basic rules to promote citizen’s involvement in environmental matters and improve enforcement of environmental law. It has three ‘pillars’: Access to Information, Public Participation in Environmental Decision-making, and Access to Justice.  It was ratified by Ireland last year and came into force on 18 September 2012.

‘Last week we reached another milestone in the process of adopting the Convention,’ said Mr Ewing.  ‘From 18 September 2013, Ireland became subject to compliance mechanisms established under the Aarhus Convention.’

This means that any individual or organisation can appeal to the Compliance Committee of the Convention if they feel that they are not receiving proper access to information, participation or justice on environmental issues.  The government will be held accountable for any breaches of the Convention by the Compliance Committee.

The Environmental Pillar has today published a leaflet explaining the significance of the Aarhus Convention for Ireland – A Brief Guide to the Aarhus Convention. (Click link below to access leaflet).

Phil Hogan, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government is expected to launch the Environmental Pillar’s publication at the National Ploughing Championships today (Tuesday 24 September).

A Brief Guide to the Aarhus Convention

Notes:

  • The official name of the Aarhus Convention is the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters. For more information, see http://ec.europa.eu/environment/aarhus/
  • A detailed but easy-to-read explanation of the Aarhus Convention and participatory democracy in Ireland is available at http://bit.ly/1euKtRC
Ian CareyYour future, your environment, your health, your decision – what the Aarhus Convention means for you