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Communicating European Environmental Citizenship

Aine Ryall

This paper explores environmental citizenship within the framework of European Union (EU) environmental law. EU law has had an enormous impact on environmental quality, but there are still persistent problems with implementation and enforcement at national level. Environmental citizenship involves individuals and NGOs taking an interest in environmental matters, contributing to policy/decision-making processes and identifying breaches of environmental law. EU directives offer important procedural rights to support active environmental citizenship, including: access to information held by public authorities; participation in decision-making and access to justice to enforce information and participation rights. These rights equip individuals and NGOs to act as environmental watchdogs. Much remains to be done to inform citizens of their rights under EU environmental law, however. Recent environmental directives oblige Member States to be proactive in publicising environmental law rights amongst the citizenry. In Case C-427/07 Commission v Ireland, 16 July 2009, the Court of Justice ruled that simply providing information on rights in publications or on the internet was not sufficient to ensure that the public is aware of its rights on access to justice in environmental matters. Environmental law is technical and complex and people find it off-putting. The paper considers mechanisms by which Government could promote active environmental citizenship via EU law rights.

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