Legislative background for accessing environmental information

To access environmental information you can use Freedom of Information legislation or the European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2007 to 2014. An unofficial consolidation of these Regulations (SI 133 of 2007, SI 662 of 2011 and SI 615 of 2014 (pdf)) is available here (pdf).

These Regulations give effect to Directive 2003/4/EC on Public Access to Information on Environmental Matters, which provides that individuals have the right to access environmental information held by public authorities. This is the first of 2 Directives to implement the Aarhus Convention (UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters 1998). Ireland ratified the Aarhus Convention on 20 June 2012.

The Aarhus Convention lays down a set of basic rules to promote citizens' involvement in environmental matters and improve enforcement of environmental law. It allows the public to have access to environmental information, provides for participation in environmental decision-making, and allows the public to seek redress when environmental law is infringed.

The EU approved the Aarhus Convention in 2005 (Council Decision 2005/370/EC of 17 February 2005).

The second Directive implementing the Aarhus Convention is Directive 2003/35/EC on Public Participation in respect of the Drawing up of Certain Plans and Programes relating to the Environment. This deals with public participation in decision-making. It provides that member states must ensure that mechanisms exist to facilitate public participation in decisions about the environment. Under the provisions of this Directive, members of the public are entitled to appeal relevant decisions of public bodies by way of judicial review.

Page edited: 9 January 2015