Connect with us

Environment

'Hard-won victory' - European Parliament opens EU courts to environmental defenders

SHARE:

Published

on

We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you've consented to and to improve our understanding of you. You can unsubscribe at any time.

In a big win for all environmental defenders, the EU Parliament has officially opened the EU courts to environmental challenges. It follows a decade-long legal battle led by ClientEarth for more access to justice for people and NGOs.

In a final vote, a sweeping majority of MEPs agreed to amend EU access to justice law the Aarhus Regulation, enabling NGOs and individuals to challenge many more EU decisions that break environmental law than was previously possible under EU law.

Until now, only NGOs could use the Aarhus Regulation, and only to challenge a very limited number of EU decisions – such as some Commission authorisations to use chemicals.

Advertisement

These restrictions have now been removed, meaning that decisions including authorisations for harmful pesticides, the limitation of emissions for diesel vehicles or the setting of fishing limits are now open to public scrutiny and challenge.

ClientEarth environmental democracy lawyer Anne Friel said:

“This is an historic moment that gives civil society a voice in the EU courts to protect the environment. Members of the public will now be able to hold EU institutions to account on their various obligations to fight climate change and biodiversity loss. It is an extra tool that will be crucial to enforce environmental laws and ensure EU decisions do not contradict the EU Green Deal.”

Advertisement

The development follows a prolonged fight for more access to justice at EU level. In 2008, ClientEarth filed a complaint with the UN against the EU for its failure to comply with the Aarhus Convention, an international environmental treaty that grants access to justice rights to the public. In 2017, the UN body responsible for overseeing compliance with the Convention finally found the EU to be in breach of its international law obligations.

This reform addresses the main findings of non-compliance of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee in that case but the battle continues.

Friel added: “This has been a hard-won victory and a legal marathon. It was only possible because the Aarhus Convention enables members of the public to hold institutions to account.”

Lawyers regret, however, that EU legislators carved out an exception for EU State aid decisions – which still cannot be challenged under the Aarhus Regulation.

Instead, the Commission has committed to prepare a study by 2022 and, “if appropriate”, related proposals by 2023. It means that until then governments can still dole out colossal sums to companies from the public purse – to fossil fuel companies, for example – without any way for the public to challenge it at EU level (where those decisions are approved).

Parties to the Aarhus Convention will gather at the upcoming Meeting of the Parties from 18-21- October 2021. At the meeting, the EU is intending to postpone the endorsement of more recent findings of the Aarhus Compliance Committee that highlight the lack of access to justice of EU State aid decisions. This would break from the established practice that all Parties accept the ACCC’s findings.

Friel said: “Unfortunately, the EU is still undermining the Convention by refusing to endorse the findings against it on state aid. By trying to obtain special treatment, the EU erodes the trust and cooperation between the parties and weakens the foundations of this international treaty. We call on the EU to lead by example and fulfil its own commitment to the rule of law.”

China

Climate Action: EU-China joint press communiqué on the fight against climate change ahead of COP26

Published

on

Following their second high-level environment and climate dialogue on 27 September 2021, Commission Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans and Vice Premier of the People's Republic of China Han Zheng reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement and a successful outcome of the COP26 in Glasgow. In a joint press release, they stressed the urgency to act immediately, notably in the light of the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They also confirmed that that the high-level environment and climate dialogue will continue to be a key platform between the EU and China to enhance actions and bilateral cooperation on environment and in the fight against climate change. During their last meeting, they discussed various aspects of the global climate and biodiversity crises, with a focus on the forthcoming UNFCCC COP26 in Glasgow and on COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming. More details on the discussion are available here

Advertisement

Continue Reading

Environment

Zero pollution: Commission report shows more needs to be done against water pollution from nitrates

Published

on

The latest Commission Report on the implementation of the Nitrates Directive (based on data for 2016-2019) warns that nitrates are still causing harmful pollution to water in the EU. Excessive nitrates in water are harmful to both human health and ecosystems, causing oxygen depletion and eutrophication. Where national authorities and farmers have cleaned up waters, it has had a positive impact on drinking water supply and biodiversity, and on the sectors such as fisheries and tourism that depend on them. Nevertheless, excessive fertilisation remains a problem in many parts of the EU.

Environment, Fisheries and Oceans Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said: "The implementation of the Nitrates Directive over the last 30 years has undoubtedly increased water quality overall in the EU. We also see that real efforts to switch to sustainable methods are paying off. However, the pace of change is not enough to prevent damage to human health and preserve fragile ecosystems. In line with the European Green Deal, more urgent action is now needed to achieve a sustainable agriculture and protect our precious water supply.” 

Nitrate concentrations have fallen in both surface and groundwater in the EU compared to the situation prior to the adoption of the Nitrates Directive in 1991. However, the new report reveals that little progress has been made over the last decade and nutrient pollution from agriculture is still a serious concern for many member states. The Commission will act to improve compliance with the Nitrates Directive, which is a prerequisite for reaching the European Green Deal objective of reducing nutrient losses by at least 50% by 2030. More information is in the press release and this Q&A.

Advertisement

Continue Reading

Environment

More countries join EU and US-led methane pledge

Published

on

Two dozen countries joined, on Monday (11 October), an US and EU-led initiative to reduce global methane emissions, as momentum builds ahead of the UN climate change conference (COP26) in Glasgow later this month, writes  ELENA SÁNCHEZ NICOLÁS.

Nigeria, Japan, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Philippines were among the new 24 signatories of the Global Methane Pledge, first announced by the European Union and the United States in September.

Under this global effort, countries have committed to reducing methane emissions by at least 30 percent over the next decade and to improving the monitoring of emissions and leaks across the globe.

Advertisement

During a ministerial meeting with participating countries on Monday, US climate envoy John Kerry clarified that this was a global target and, therefore, "every country will do what it can in order to be able to reduce methane emissions".

Methane is the second-biggest contributor to global warming, following carbon dioxide. It is estimated to account for about half of the 1.0 degree Celsius rise in global temperatures that has already occurred since the pre-industrial era.

Last week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said that 70 percent of methane emissions from gas and oil operations can be easily prevented.

Advertisement

"The solutions are proven and even profitable in many cases," IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said at the time

Delivering on this global pledge could buy the planet some time, since it is estimated to reduce global warming by 0.2 degrees by 2050.

However, according to Inger Andersen from the UN environment programme, countries should not consider it as "a get-out-of-jail-free card" to tackle the climate crisis.

"It is important that we swiftly decarbonise our energy systems, that action on methane should be seen as complementary in the short term to the global efforts on CO2" in order to achieve the 2015 Paris Agreement targets, Andersen said.

This partnership now covers nine of the world's top 20 methane emitters, representing about 30 percent of global methane emissions and 60 percent of the global economy.

But both the EU and the US hope more countries will support this initiative, when it is formally launched in Glasgow.

"The pledge's supporters are putting methane squarely on the COP26 agenda, where it belongs, and every country in the world should follow their lead and join the pledge immediately," said Sarah Smith from Boston-based NGO Clean Air Task Force.

Meanwhile, a group of 20 philanthropists has announced €170m to implement the global pledge.

EU imports methane emissions

Over the last three decades, the European Union has reduced methane emissions from landfill almost by half and fossil fuels by almost 65 percent, EU climate chief Frans Timmermans told his counterparts.

"But the large part of methane emissions associated with the European economy are not happening within our borders. Instead, they take place during the productions and transportation of fossil fuels that we import into the EU," he added.

The EU produces some five percent of global methane emissions internally, but it is the world's largest importer of gas and oil.

As a result, the European Commission is expected to put forward a legislative proposal by the end of the year to reduce methane emissions across the whole energy supply chain in the EU and in primary export countries - including binding rules on monitoring, reporting, leak detection and repair in the energy sector.

Within the EU, more than half of man-made methane emissions comes from agriculture (53 percent), followed by waste (26%) and energy (19%).

In the agriculture sector, the EU will promote research on innovative methane reducing technologies and nature-based solutions.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending