The Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters is a critical UN treaty which recognises the link between human rights and the environment.
It upholds the following human rights for every person:
- the right to be informed and have access to information about the environment;
- the right to participate in environmental decision-making; and
- the right of easy and effective access to justice.
The right of access to justice allows citizens to legally challenge environmental decisions, omissions or breaches of law. This is crucial because the environment has no legal voice of its own, and also because we all have a right to a healthy environment.
Scotland, as an Aarhus signatory through the UK, is legally obliged to implement the Convention. However, it is in breach of the Convention in relation to access to justice, because of the prohibitive costs of challenging environmental laws and decisions in Scottish courts.
Friends of the Earth Scotland has been campaigning for over 10 years to bring Scotland into compliance with the Convention.
ERCS aims to add new impetus to its efforts, following decisions by the Meeting of the Parties (MoP) to the Convention in 2014 and 2017 that Scotland does not fully comply. This autumn, we contributed to the final review of UK progress since 2017 by the Convention Compliance Committee, raising the persistent issue of the excessive cost of challenging environmental decisions in Scotland. We also provided comments on the UK Government’s draft National Implementation Report for the same period. These submissions will be considered by the Seventh MoP in October 2021.
We expect the MoP, delayed by a year because of Covid-19, to decide for the third consecutive time that Scotland is not fully compliant with the Convention.