Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Aarhus Convention Committee confirm EU in breach of Aarhus Convention

The Aarhus Convention was designed to empower citizens to participate in environmental matters at the political level. It has three main pillars - public participation, access to information, and access to justice. Both the EU and Ireland have signed up in principal to its tenets, but in practice, implementation is sporadic and often arbitrary.

UNECE Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee (ACCC) perform an enforcement role of sorts, but their decisions are not binding. Instead, they try to encourage parties to the convention to comply at Meeting of the Parties.

In a recent complaint accepted by ACCC, the EU itself was found to be non compliant in relation to its plans for large energy infrastructure projects for Ireland (called PCIs) :

After taking into account the information received, the Committee re-confirmed its earlier determination of preliminary admissibility with respect to the allegations concerning article 7 of the Convention. 

Article 7 refers to public participation concerning plans and programmes relating to the environment. There are also allegations of breaches of Article 4, relating to access to information on the environment.

The EU now has till November to respond. Well done to Pat Swords and those involved for getting this far. One of the central tenets of the 2008 Lisbon Treaty was that the EU would :

consolidate and support democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the principles of international law;

 It sure has a lot more work to do..........

1 comment:

  1. For the benefit of those who may not be familiar with the law, I believe there is an adequate amount of legal rules in place to protect the environment. The Aarhus Convention is interwoven with the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive and the local environmental assessment directives to bolster existing Planning and Development Acts. The key triggers are, if the plan or programme will have an significant impact on the environment or is a listed activity. (energy is listed). Compliance with these laws is a pre-requisite for a valid planning application. When the planner receives any application whatsoever, (even to build a wall) he must carry out a check-list to ensure all validation documentation is in attached. Strategic assessments are being done in Britain for Town and Country Planning and the High Speed Rail link. However, when it comes to anything to do with renewable energy, its all mainly by passed. Every possible obstacle is put in the way of the citizen's right to participate and every possible obstacle is put in the way of anyone calling for an assessment.
    Assessment requires the consideration of alternatives which requires the quantification of such things as saving in fossil fuel or co2 from wind farms. When I object to planning applications for wind farms or pylons, the planner will not allow any assessment of their usefulness or on other ways to achieve the same purpose. (The revelations in this blog are off limits.) He sticks rigidly to the environmental effects only. The other problem is that the Irish Government have exempted parts of projects from the process. Underground cables are an example. There is an unwillingness at EU Commission level to enforce their own laws and that trickles down to government, local planners and developers. It remains to be seen if the courts will be any different.
    There was tradition maxim "the law never speaks but to command, not commands but where it can compel". This was respected in common law countries, (not in Europe). Now that maxim has been replaced due to the influence of the EU. There is one law for citizens with whom the EU agrees and one law for those with whom it does not agree" We were duped.