The principles underlying the Aarhus Convention and experience gained in the implementation of its provisions have wide application in many policy domains, including chemicals management, climate change governance and nuclear energy.
Although significant progress has been achieved in implementing the Convention at national level in the UNECE region, National Implementation Reports submitted by the Parties in 2008 indicate that in some countries there remain problems with the integration of the Convention’s requirements in decision-making on sectoral activities. This is notably evident where agencies other than environment ministries are concerned.
This page provides an overview of the application of the Aarhus Convention in sectoral processes. It covers processes at both the national and regional level.
For information on how the Aarhus Convention principles are being applied at the international level, see Public Participation in International Forums.
The European workshop “Aarhus and Nuclear” on the practical implementation of the Aarhus Convention in the nuclear field was held in Luxembourg on 24 and 25 of June 2009 in the premises of the European Commission.
The Luxembourg event characterized the main issues related to the practical implementation of the Convention in the nuclear field, such as confidentiality, transparency, transboundary participation on new nuclear projects, access to expertise and access to justice.
These reflections will be developed over 18 months in national round tables in some 10 interested countries and in thematic European round tables on transversal issues (e.g. application of Aarhus by Euratom).
A concluding European workshop will take place in fall 2010 or early 2011 to report on the conclusions of the round tables and discuss the practical steps proposed to deepen the implementation of the Convention in the nuclear field.
The SAICM Global Plan of Action, adopted at the first session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (Dubai, 4–6 February 2006), contains some 300 activities to bring us toward the 2020 international goal of sound chemicals management. PRTRs are mentioned numerous times.
In its capacity as secretariat to the International PRTR Coordinating Group, the Convention secretariat prepared a table showing possible activities of the SAICM Global Plan of Action which support the creation of national and international pollutant release and transfer registers.
SAICM Global Plan of Action, tables A and B showing selected PRTR activities ENG
The second session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (Geneva, 10-15 May 2009) will review progress made toward achieving the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation goal that by 2020 chemicals will be produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on the environment and human health.
UNECE submitted a comment to the draft ICCM2 document setting out possible cooperative actions on nanotechnology and manufactured nanomaterials. It supported public dialogue on the potential benefits and risks of nanotechnology.
NEWS: At the UNFCCC CoP-15 in Copenhagen, the Czech Republic in collaboration with the UNECE, the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is organizing a side-event on Public Participation in Climate Change Governance.
Also at the UNFCCC CoP-15, the Republic of Armenia in collaboration with the International Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers Coordinating Group is organizing a side-event on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers.
The area of climate change-related policymaking is becoming increasingly important throughout the UNECE region. All of the Eastern Europe, Caucacus and Central Asia Parties to the Aarhus Convention are also Parties to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The principles underlying the Aarhus Convention and its Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers have special relevance to the achievement of the goals established by the UNFCCC treaty.
Jeremy Wates, Secretary to the Aarhus Convention addressed the European Regional Workshop on Article 6 of the Climate Change Convention, Stockholm, 18-20 May 2009
Controlling greenhouse gas emissions
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change sets an overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change.
The Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC establishes legally binding commitments for the reduction of four greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride) and two groups of gases hydro-fluorocarbons (HFCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs). Parties to the UNFCCC treaty and its Kyoto Protocol annually submit to the Secretariat of the UNFCCC their inventory of national greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) of CO2, CH4, N2O, SF6, HFCs and PFCs.
In some countries, the GHG inventory is a comprehensive top-down national assessment of national GHG emissions, and they use top-down national energy data and other national statistics (e.g. on agriculture) to prepare their annual reports. To achieve the goal of comprehensive national emissions coverage for reporting under the UNFCCC, most GHG emissions are calculated via activity data from national-level databases, statistics, and surveys. The use of the aggregated national data means that the national emissions estimates are not broken-down at the geographic or facility level.
The Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTR) to the Aarhus Convention, by contrast, requires Governments to collect annual reports on major greenhouse gas emissions (among other pollutants) by industry on a facility-by-facility basis and to share this information with the public. All of the substances identified in the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol are also contained in the PRTR Protocol's Annex II list of threshold pollutants.
National registers created under the Protocol can help countries meet the objectives of the Climate Change Convention in three ways:
- where greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) data are directly incorporated into a national register, the data can be used to supplement information needed to calculate the national GHG inventory;
- PRTR GHG data provided on a facility-by-facility basis can be used to cross-check data derived from other sources, and help identify data gaps;
- GHG data incorporated into a national PRTR can raise public awareness of major emitters of greenhouse gases, and contribute to the demand for improved environmental performance from industry and other sources.
Assessing national capacities for implementing article 6
Article 6 of UNFCCC addresses education, public awareness, access to information, public participation and international cooperation. The Article 6 work programme is guided inter alia by the promotion of partnerships, networks and synergies, in particular, synergies between Conventions. It encourages Parties to undertake activities under the elements of the article, including by developing national plans of action, targeting specific need of various actors and groups.
In 2006, Parties to the UNFCCC called for a "more active role of United Nations bodies...to facilitate the continued implementation of outreach activities and to identify consistent methodologies for undertaking work at the national, sub-regional and national levels".
In addition, intergovernmental organizations were invited to develop programmatic responses to the Article 6 work programme and, following consultation with the UNFCCC secretariat, to communicate progress achieved, for the purpose of reviewing the programme and evaluating its effectiveness in 2012.
Environmental governance and the climate change agenda
Parties to the Convention should ensure that Aarhus Convention’s requirements are implemented in environmental decision-making on the national climate change agenda, both in the process of preparing strategic decisions to address the climate change agenda and in the decisions themselves.
UNECE and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) had jointly developed and pilot-tested a methodology for preparing a national profile to assess national capacities to implement the Aarhus Convention in three UNECE countries. The methodology was subsequently adapted by UNITAR to assist countries outside the UNECE region in assessing national capacities to implement principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.
UNECE and UNITAR are exploring how to further elaborate an assessment methodology to assist countries in implementing their United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Article 6 commitments, in particular those related to public access to information and public participation in decision-making.
Climate change, governance and corruption
The Convention secretariat participated in a workshop on Governing the Climate Change Agenda - Making the Case for Transparency at the 13th International Anti-Corruption Conference: Global Transparency, fighting corruption for a sustainable future (Athens, 30 October – 2 November 2008).
In the climate change arena, a number of relatively new institutions and processes now govern the international community's approach. The coming into force in 2005 of the Kyoto Protocol, which set targets and deadlines for reducing carbon emissions, and the subsequent introduction of carbon credits trading markets, such as the Clean Development Mechanism and the European Union Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme, were significant steps forward.
The success of these new measures will depend on their integrity. The workshop explored how the international regime on climate change can reflect best practice in good governance, accountability and transparency for stakeholders. It also addressed how corruption might distort the emerging global carbon trading system and undermine its effectiveness.
The UNECE secretariat provided an overview of good governance principles, linking the development of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the underpinning of the Aarhus Convention.
Beyond Kyoto Conference calls on UNFCCC to empower citizens participation
An international conference attended by more than 1,000 representatives from science, industry, policy and NGOs "Beyond Kyoto: Addressing the Challenges of Climate Change" (Aarhus, Denmark, 5–6 March 2009) concluded by calling upon Parties to the Climate Change Convention to include the commitments of the Aarhus Convention and include incentivies for empowering citizens' participation.
This call was one of seven statements later presented to Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Minister for Climate Change and Energy Connie Hedegaard by the Conference Organizers. For the complete set of statements, see the 7 Aarhus Statements on Climate Change.
The Role of Information in an Age of Climate Change
13–14 November 2008, University of Aarhus, Denmark
Interactive Conference poster ENG
The Role of Information in an Age of Climate Change
An International Conference to Mark the 10th Anniversary of the Aarhus Convention 13–14 November 2008, University of Aarhus, Denmark
UNFCCC on access to information and public participation practices
In 2006, the secretariat to the Climate Change Convention provided a response to the questionnaire circulated by the Aarhus Convention Parties addressing the Almaty Guidelines on public participation in international forums ENG
A resolution on human rights and the environment as part of sustainable development was adopted by the Commission on Human Rights in April 2003. It requested the Secretary-General to submit to the Commission at its sixtieth session in spring 2004 a report "on the consideration being given to the possible relationship between the environment and human rights", taking into account the contributions that concerned international organizations and bodies.
The activities carried out under the Aarhus Convention are of great relevance to this topic. To a certain extent, the Convention may be said to embody the link between human rights and the environment, being an instrument which on the one hand aims to ensure better protection of the environment, and on the other, attempts to achieve this goal by seeking to guarantee specific rights of individuals. Hence a submission to the report was made recently by the secretariat, on behalf of UNECE.