Public Participation in the Context of Energy Activities: The Role of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee
Forthcoming in M Ozawa, J Chaplin, M Pollitt, D Reiner and P Warde (eds), In Search of Good Energy Policy (Cambridge University Press 2019)
10 Pages Posted: 27 May 2019
Date Written: April 1, 2018
In the context of our search for ‘good’ energy policy, this chapter proposes public participation as a principle of energy governance that brings legitimacy to energy decisions and fosters their social acceptance. Admittedly, doing so risks opening the Pandora box of fundamentally difficult policy questions regarding who should be included, for which purposes, and following which methods. This piece concentrates on a multilateral treaty that provides guidance on these questions - the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention).
By looking at the role of international law in the field of energy through the spectrum of a multilateral environmental treaty, the chapter puts into evidence three trends in energy governance: (i) energy policies that have traditionally been the domaine réservé of the state are opening up to public scrutiny, (ii) this process is in part driven by international constraints, and (iii) falls under the scope of a hybrid treaty at the intersection between environmental law and human rights. In other words, energy governance is becoming increasingly democratic, is influenced by international standards and regulations and is more open to environmental and social sustainability objectives.
The chapter starts by explaining how the Aarhus Convention contributes to energy governance (part 1). One of its strengths lies in the existence of a committee charged with reviewing State compliance with the convention’s obligations: it gives direct insights into how the instrument affects the design and operation of projects that might impact the environment. Two cases where the committee found a situation of non-compliance in the context of energy projects are analysed (part 2). The chapter ends by reflecting on the increasingly important role that international law plays in energy governance, and, more specifically, in democratising decision-making processes (part 3).
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