Celebrating 25 years of the Aarhus Convention – the ‘most ambitious venture in environmental democracy undertaken under the auspices of the United Nations’

Special Law conference in The Great Hall, The King’s Inns, Dublin, Friday, 29th September, 3.15pm – 7.10pm, followed by conference reception.

 The Aarhus Convention is an international Human Rights Convention concerned with Environmental Democracy. Twenty-five years on from its adoption in 1998, the relevance of the Aarhus Convention has never been clearer. The Convention provides for key obligations on State Parties and rights for the public. The objective is to protect the right of this and future generations to live in an environment adequate to their health and well-being. It specifies the rights of the public and obligations that the Irish State has regarding the provision of environmental information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Aarhus Convention and the 11th anniversary of the Convention coming into effect in Ireland, the Irish Environmental Network is hosting a significant Law conference on Friday, 29th September, in the King’s Inns. The conference will also be available online and can be viewed by selecting an online ticket at https://t.co/gfmiH9sYvm.

The event will be chaired by former Chief Justice, Mr Justice Frank Clarke, President of the Law Reform Commission,

The stellar line of Speakers includes:

  • Ms Justice Marie Baker, Supreme Court of Ireland;
  • Professor Áine Ryall, UCC School of Law, and Chair of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee;
  • Ms Sibylle Grohs Senior Lawyer, DG-Envi, EU Commission;
  • Mr Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on Environmental Defenders under the Aarhus Convention, and former UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders.
  • Dr Tom Ryan, Director of the Office of Environmental Enforcement, EPA Ireland;
  • Ms Deirdre McGoldrick, Senior Investigator, Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information and Office of the Information Commissioner,
  • Mr Tom Flynn SC, and
  • Mr Gregory Jones KC.

Attracta Uí Bhroin, Environmental Law Officer of the IEN said: “The Aarhus Convention was described by the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, as the ‘most ambitious venture in environmental democracy undertaken under the auspices of the United Nations’[1]. The conference will focus on a positive celebration of the Aarhus Convention and some of its key aspects, and our objective is to increase awareness of these and the Convention’s ongoing and indeed increased relevance given the existential environmental challenges of our world of today, and what the IPCC has described as inter-dependent climate and biodiversity crises.”

These important Aarhus anniversaries coincide with the mid-point milestone in 2023 for the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals, the SDGs.

Uí Bhroin continued: We live in a year, 2023, which should see us well on half way to delivering on the SDGs by 2030. But as recently highlighted by the UN Secretary General António Guterres – only 15 per cent of the targets are on track, with many going into reverse. President Michael D Higgins also highlighted we are failing, with those who have least contributed to climate change paying the highest price. So with this positive celebration of this progressive and far-sighted Convention we wish to energise and galvanise focus in leveraging it as a key mechanism to deliver on many of the SDGs, for example on climate action, water quality, health and well-being, marine life, sustainable cities, clean energy and more.”

“Aarhus is about providing people with environmental information they need to help them decide when they need to act and engage, and to be able participate in an informed way, and input into environmental decision-making on developments, law, plans and policies effectively, and to seek access to justice when necessary.”

Uí Bhroin concluded: “Even if you think you will never go to court, we all know it is important the Public Authorities, including the Government and Ministers, know they can be held to account before our courts. By providing for obligations on transparency and practical rights to challenge decisions of public authorities, Aarhus helps to maintain good standards of decision-making on environmental matters – which is so critical today.”

Given the public interest nature of this initiative, the event is free, open to all, available online and will be recorded to increase its reach.

There is significant interest in the event with registrations for in person attendance from: members of the Judiciary from Ireland and Northern Ireland; members of the Bar of Ireland, and Law Society of Ireland; legislators from both Houses of the Oireachtas; members of Local Government;  officials from government departments from Ireland and the UK and from State bodies and various agencies; academics; participants from a range of professional bodies and associations; students of Law and the Environment and a range of disciplines; eNGOs; environmental activists; members of the public and of course the media, with a good cross section of these from the UK and Europe also participating online.

[1] Statement of the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr Kofi Annan, at the first meeting of the Parties, Lucca, Italy, 21 to 23 October 2002 (‘the first meeting of the Parties’).