Empowering citizens to challenge polluters

Providing legal standing to citizens in environmental actions
It is considered that citizens should be given more power through the legal system, politics, NGO's and the private sector, thus making environmental enforcement no longer the exclusive responsibility of the government.
This approach can be formalized through the legal system. In the [Clean Air Act] (1970), the USA Congress authorized private citizens to seek injunctions (and in some cases financial penalties) against companies that violated the terms of their operating permits. Mexico City is implementing air pollution control measures through private vehicle-inspection stations.

Access to justice should be ensured so that the public can challenge breaches of rights to information and participation and of laws relating to health and the environment. A broad interpretation of the right of legal standing should be applied. Public-interest NGOs promoting health or environmental protection should be granted the right of standing where the interests they exist to protect may be threatened. Efforts should be made to overcome practical and financial barriers to access to justice, e.g. through legal aid mechanisms and cost-waiver provisions, and injunctive relief should be available where serious or irreversible damage to health or the environment could otherwise occur. Governments should consider establishing an ombudsperson to deal with environment and health matters.

The [Ã…rhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters], adopted in June 1998 and signed by 39 governments and the European Community, is currently the most significant regional framework for strengthening public rights of access to information, participation in decision-making and access to justice in the context of the environment and environment-related health.

Type Classification:
E: Emanations of other strategies