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European Climate Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency
News article6 April 2022European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency

How LIFE is improving access to environmental justice

Anne Brosnan, ENPE President delivering the opening speech at the ENPE & EUROJUST conference on environmental crime
LIFE14 GIE/UK/000043/EUROJUST. All rights reserved. Licensed to the European Union under conditions.

Ensuring that European citizens could bring environmental cases to court was the goal of the LIFE Access to Justice for a greener Europe (A2J EARL) project.

A lack of information and awareness hampers individuals and NGOs from bringing environmental cases to court. Partners in LIFE A2J EARL shared knowledge on access to justice rights and bridged the gap between lawyers, judges, public authorities and the public to improve environmental governance.

The team developed national toolkits in Germany, Estonia, Spain, France, Hungary, Austria, Poland and Slovakia. The toolkits enabled the project’s target audience of academics, lawyers, judges and NGO representatives to challenge violations in environmental law. They were sent to more than 1 100 key professionals by the end of the project.

The partners also produced a guide on access to justice in European Union Law in English, which was subsequently translated into Polish, reaching nearly 2 000 people. There are no other such comprehensive publications on this legal framework.

Around 2 000 professionals were trained in 48 national workshops and 12 webinars across participating EU countries.

Other project outputs included a website with an ‘ask a lawyer function’ and a public-interest lawyer database comprising legal professionals active in environmental law.

The project’s materials have given people the tools to advance various environmental cases in Estonia, Spain, France, Hungary and Austria.

And there have been various socio-economic impacts, including:

  • increased knowledge and awareness about access to justice
  • better dialogue and cooperation among the target groups
  • more effective communication to a wider audience

The project team forged fruitful connections with MEPs and national lawmakers, which may further influence policy developments.

LIFE A2J EARL supports the implementation of the EU acquis related to the Aarhus Convention. The project built on the European Commission’s efforts to improve access to justice. These efforts were set out in the 2020 Communication on improving access to justice in environmental matters in the EU and its Member States, in which several priority action areas were also announced. To safeguard the environment and empower members of the public and NGOs, the EU recently published eJustice factsheets on access to justice in environmental matters, informing the public of the applicable rules in each Member State. Also, the Commission in 2008 launched a programme for cooperation with national judges in the field of environmental law, comprising EU environmental training modules.

LIFE A2J EARL helped implement these actions by improving civil society rights and judicial systems knowledge as well as providing training for key stakeholders.

The project contributes to EU environmental policies like the European Green Deal and the Environmental Implementation Review (EIR).

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