Aarhaus is a town in Denmark, where a ground breaking Treaty, the Aarhaus Convention, was signed in 1998, giving citizens a truly radical set of rights in respect of the protection of our environment. Ireland ratified this Treaty in 2012. The full title of this International Treaty is the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental matters.
We, as citizens, now have the right to environmental information held by public authorities, including County Councils. We have the right to participate in decisions to permit activities that may impact on the environment and when plans, policies or laws related to the environment are being prepared. We must be consulted while all options are still open. The Aarhaus seven-step model on public participation in decision-making is a blueprint for good public consultation in every area of public life and public services.
We have the right to justice on environmental matters, including the right to challenge any refusal to give information, and to challenge the legality of a plan, programme or decision on a particular activity. Any member of the public can make a communication to the Aarhaus Convention Compliance Committee about compliance with the Convention.
For user friendly information on the Aarhaus Convention, go to http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/env/pp/Publications/Aarhus_brochure_Protecting_your_environment_eng.pdf
The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Govenment is preparing to go to public consultation about the best ways of giving fuller, clearer and more transparent effect to the Aarhaus Convention in Ireland. Keep an eye out for this important consultation and read more about Aarhaus and Ireland at http://www.environ.ie/en/Environment/AarhusConvention/