Ireland Ratifies the Aarhus Convention

Phil Hogan, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government will today (21 June 2012) address delegates at Rio +20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, and will announce that Ireland has, on 20th June 2012, completed ratification of the Aarhus Convention. The GMO Amendment to the Convention and the Protocol to the Convention on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers were also ratified.

 

The Minister will inform delegates that “the new Irish Government appointed last year assigned a high priority to early ratification of this Convention, recognising its role in laying down a set of basic rules to promote citizen’s involvement in environmental matters and improving enforcement of environmental law”. He will announce that “the long journey towards ratification has now been completed and Ireland formally ratified the Convention yesterday”.

 

Ratification of the Aarhus Convention is a commitment in the Programme for Government.

The final step in the process of ratification was approval of the motion by Dáil Éireann. This took place on 14 June 2012 and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade deposited the formal instruments with the UN on 20 June 2012. The three agreements will enter into force on 18 September 2012.

 

The Aarhus Convention lays down a set of basic rules to promote citizen’s involvement in environmental matters and improve enforcement of environmental law; its provisions are broken down into three Pillars: Access to Information, Public Participation in Environmental Decision-making and Access to Justice

 

The Aarhus Convention

The Convention, itself, has its origins in Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development of 1992, which proclaimed that environmental issues are best handled with the participation of citizens, that individuals should have access to information concerning the environment and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes. Access to remedial measures and redress should also be provided.

 

The Aarhus Convention lays down a set of basic rules to promote citizen’s involvement in environmental matters and improve enforcement of environmental law; its provisions are broken down into three Pillars: Access to Information, Public Participation in Environmental Decision-making and Access to Justice. The Convention has been implemented in the EU by two Directives; Directive 2003/4/EC on Access to Information on the Environment and Directive 2003/35/EC on Public Participation in Environmental Decision-Making and Access to Justice.

 

The Convention is legally binding on those States that have chosen to become Parties to it.

 

GMO Amendment

The GMO Amendment was adopted as an amendment to the Aarhus Convention in 2005.  It puts in place requirements for public participation in decisions concerning the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms. These requirements are more specific than the general requirements concerning public participation which apply to other issues covered by the Aarhus Convention.  The requirements of the Amendment are consistent with EU Directive 2001/18/EC on the Deliberate Release of GMOs, implemented in Ireland by the Genetically Modified Organisms (Deliberate Release) Regulations 2003 and, therefore, no further legislative amendments were necessary to provide for ratification of the amendment.

 

 

PRTR Protocol

The Protocol to the Aarhus Convention on Pollutant Release Transfer Registers requires the establishment of publicly accessible, national registers that contain information on a range of pollutants. The Environmental Protection Agency is the competent authority in Ireland and it launched Ireland’s PRTR in October 2011 which is accessible on-line at www.prtr.ie.  The Irish PRTR is essentially about provision of information and it contains information about emissions from more than 300 licensed industrial facilities across the country and enables members of the public to find out about the major sources of polluting emissions in their immediate environs.

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