CONSULTATION BRIEF ON THE AARHUS CONVENTION NATIONAL IMPLEMENTATION REPORT 2017
1. BACKGROUND TO THE AARHUS CONVENTION
The Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (hereinafter referred to as the Aarhus Convention) was adopted on 25 June 1998 in Aarhus, Denmark at the Fourth Ministerial Conference as part of the “Environment for Europe” process. It entered into force on 30 October 2001.
The Aarhus Convention establishes a number of rights for the public (individuals and their associations) with regard to the environment. The Parties to the Aarhus Convention are required to make the necessary provisions so that public authorities (at national, regional or local level) contribute to these rights becoming effective. The Aarhus Convention categorises these rights under three pillars:
- The right of all persons to receive environmental information that is held by public authorities (“access to environmental information”). This may include information on the state of the environment, on policies or measures taken, and on the state of human health and safety in relation to environmental matters. Applicants are entitled to obtain this information within one month of the request and without having to state reasons for the request. In addition, public authorities are obliged, under the Aarhus Convention, to actively disseminate environmental information in their possession;
- The public must be informed regarding all relevant activities and policies affecting the environment and must be given the chance to participate both during the decision-making and the legislative process (“public participation in decision making”). This not only allows for transparency and inclusion in decision making, but creates opportunities to improve the quality of the environmental decisions and outcomes;
- The right to bring appeal procedures in order to challenge decisions that have been made without respecting the two aforementioned rights or environmental law in general (“access to justice”).
The Aarhus Convention is considered to be an elaboration on principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration, which stresses the importance of public participation in environmental issues, access to environmental information held by public authorities and effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings.
The EU has been a Party to the Convention since May 2005, whilst Malta ratified the Convention in April 2002. The first pillar of the Aarhus Convention is implemented under EU law by Directive 90/313/EEC, which has been replaced by Directive 2003/4/EC on public access to environmental information. Malta transposed Directive 2003/4/EC granting the public the right of access to environmental information via S.L. 549.39 (Freedom of Access to Information on the Environment Regulations).
The second pillar of the Convention is implemented in EU law through Directive 2003/35/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, providing for public participation in respect of the drawing up of certain plans and programmes relating to the environment. Directive 2003/35/EC has been partially transposed through the Plans and Programmes (Public Participation) Regulations (S.L. 549.41). The remaining provisions were transposed via amendments to the Environment Protection Act (Cap. 549) and Development Planning Act (Cap. 552). Other main pieces of Maltese legislation related to the second pillar include:
- The Industrial Emissions (Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control) Regulations (S.L. 549.77)
- The Strategic Environmental Assessment Regulations (S.L. 549.61)
- The Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations (S.L. 549.46)
- The Water Policy Framework Regulations (S.L. 549.100)
- The European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register Reporting Obligations Regulations (S.L. 549.47)
- The Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations (S.L. 424.19)
- The Development Planning (Procedure for Applications and their Determination) Regulations (S.L. 552.13)
An EU Directive on the third pillar has been proposed but has not been adopted. Relevant Maltese law on the subject include mainly, the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal Act (Cap. 551), the Code of Organization and Civil Procedure (Cap. 12), the Administrative Justice Act (Cap. 490) and the Data Protection Act (Cap. 440).
The Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) holds the role of National Focal Point for the Aarhus Convention in Malta.
2. THE NATIONAL IMPLEMENTATION REPORT
Article 10 of the Aarhus Convention requires the Meeting of the Parties to keep the implementation of the Convention under continuous review through regular reporting by the Parties. National Reports are required to be prepared through a transparent and consultative process involving the public in a timely
manner. To this end, Parties are required to review their earlier report (submitted in 2014) and submit an updated version.
The draft Aarhus Convention National Implementation Report may be viewed on http://era.org.mt/en/Pages/Active-Public-Consultations.aspx.
The Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change and the Environment and Resources Authority welcome any feedback on the Report.
Any comments must be submitted by the 28st March 2017 at the latest on the following email address: [email protected]
The Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change and the Environment and Resources Authority shall take into consideration your concerns and comments.
For more information on the Aarhus Convention please click here.