Judicial Enforcement of Environmental Democracy: a Critical Analysis of Case Law on Access to Environmental Information in the European Union

Marjan Peeters*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Since the 1970s, the concept of environmental democracy, including the right to gain access to environmental information, has emerged as an important concept to promote and ensure public engagement in governmental environmental decision-making. While it is, generally, understood that environmental procedural rights deserve protection across the globe, it remains to be identified to what extent, in practice, the application of such rights differs across jurisdictions. Such differences may be caused by specific understandings of democracy and institutional characteristics. In light of this, this article analyses the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) regarding the right of access to environmental information. It observes that the EU legislature has implemented the right of access to environmental information more ambitiously than required under the Aarhus Convention, particularly with regard to legislative information. Moreover, the CJEU has steered EU institutions, including the European Commission, towards even greater transparency. The judicial reasoning by the CJEU is principled and refers to general values regarding openness and transparency
codified in primary EU law and in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. These judicial developments also highlight the importance of promoting discourse on the implications of a rigorous approach to the right of access to environmental information, including the question of whether enabling wider public engagement
necessarily leads to better decision-making. Finally, the article promotes the need for comparative research on how the right to gain access to environmental information is developing across the world.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-43
Number of pages31
JournalChinese Journal of Environmental Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Aarhus Convention
  • access to environmental information
  • effective and efficient decision-making
  • environmental democracy
  • EU law
  • EU Charter of Fundamental Rights
  • judicial enforcement
  • comparative research

Cite this