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Event to mark the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Aarhus Convention
On 14 July 2018, the Environmental Law Implementation Group (ELIG) and the Irish Environmental Network (IEN) hosted a day-long seminar at King’s Inns, Dublin to mark the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Aarhus Convention.
Dr Áine Ryall, School of Law UCC and Vice-Chair of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee delivered the keynote address. Dr Ryall, who was speaking in a personal capacity, highlighted the impact of the Convention in promoting environmental democracy.
When it was adopted in 1998, the Convention was novel in recognising the link between environmental rights and human rights. Things have moved on significantly in the intervening 20 years and the right to a healthy environment is now recognised in many jurisdictions around the globe.
The seeds have been sown in this regard in Ireland with the High Court recognising, albeit obiter, an unenumerated constitutional right to an environment that is consistent with the human dignity and well-being of citizens. It will take a decision of the Supreme Court to confirm this new right, but this is hopefully a development that will come to pass in the not too distant future.
Referring to the RTÉ Investigates programme Ireland’s Wild Waste broadcast on 18 June 2018, Dr Ryall called for stronger emphasis on environmental law enforcement and in particular waste law enforcement. Sustained public pressure is needed in order to ensure meaningful action on waste at the political level.
The findings of the RTÉ investigates programme confirmed the importance of access to justice for individual members of the public and environmental NGOs where the State and regulators fail to act in an effective and timely manner.
Dr Ryall also took the opportunity to comment on recent Government proposals to amend the law governing judicial review in the context of challenges to planning permissions for strategic infrastructure development. Any attempt to restrict the right of access to judicial review must be compatible with the Aarhus Convention and European Union environmental law.
The ELIG/IEN seminar addressed the three pillars of the Aarhus Convention: access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters.
The contributors included: the Hon Mr Justice Frank Clarke, Chief Justice and Adjunct Professor at the School of Law, UCC; Mr Liam Cashman, Environment DG, European Commission; Mr Jean-Francois Brakeland, Legal Service, European Commission; Dr Fred Logue, FP Logue Solicitors; Anne Friel, ClientEarth; Joe Noonan, Noonan Linehan Carroll Coffey; Rory Mulcahy SC; David Browne BL; James Devlin SC; Alan Doyle, Barry Doyle & Co; Carol Day, Consultant Solicitor, Leigh Day and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
Kevin O’Sullivan, Irish Times Environment and Science Editor provides an overview of some of the key points discussed at the seminar Lack of enforcement of environmental laws “a national scandal”