Access to Justice

The ratification of the Aarhus Convention and incorporation of its provisions into both European and national laws has improved access to justice in a way that hardly seemed possible before: It has brought genuine rights of action for environmental associations in Germany, so that the application of existing environmental law can now be reviewed by the courts. This means that not only a person directly affected can take legal action (e.g. because of noise pollution or violation of clean air targets) but also an association, i.e. in representation of the interests of many citizens and the environment itself. This is implemented in Germany by the Environmental Appeals Act (Umwelt-Rechtsbehelfsgesetz), albeit still insufficiently. Political forces in Germany and the EU hold representative environmental actions responsible for long planning periods and legal proceedings. Yet, the German Environment Agency (UBA) writes on the basis of its various research projects: ”In general, the behaviour of environmental associations with respect to legal complaints leads to the conclusion that they use their scarce resources of time and money very carefully and rationally. Therefore, in principle, an appeal is only lodged in the case of blatant technical and legal deficiencies”.

The legal foundations, scientific analyses and statistics for this can be found (in German) at the Independent Institute for Environmental Issues (UfU) and UBA.

GLI is committed to broadening access to justice in environmental matters and to reducing the procedural obstacles to the implementation of current environmental law. The necessity to improve access to justice arises from, among other sources, Article 20a of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (Grundgesetz).
“Mindful also of its responsibility towards future generations, the state shall protect the natural foundations of life and animals by legislation and, in accordance with law and justice, by executive and judicial action, all within the framework of the constitutional order.”

A prerequisite for the effectiveness of this state objective is that both the legislative and the executive branch of government can be checked by the courts for the common good and to ensure the implementation of objective law.

GLI aims to develop policy positions regarding political processes in Germany and the EU, to present concrete proposals for the implementation of law, and to provide a platform for lawyers and associations to responsibly shape the use of rights of appeal.

Information on the different types of climate cases, current cases and the goals environmental NGOs are pursuing through strategic litgation.