Washington DC-based climate think-tank, the World Resources Institute is set to launch its Environmental Democracy Index (EDI) on 20 May. Developed in partnership with The Access Initiative, the EDI is designed to provide a snapshot of a nation’s performance in key practice areas of environmental governance.
In the latest issue of the Environmental and Planning Law Journal (EPLJ), report contributors Guy J Dwyer and Judith A Preston discuss Australia’s performance under the EDI – scoring just 1.42 out of a maximum possible score of 3; and achieving the best possible practice results in only 14 out of 24 practice indicators.
The EDI was developed to test the extent to which domestic environmental laws at a national level have been harmonised with international standards of best practice for access to information, public participation and access to justice in areas related to the environment.
Dwyer and Preston, who were both involved in the research and preparation of Australia’s country profile for the EDI project, conclude that:
“… the Australian Government has incorporated some aspects of Principle 10, the Aarhus Convention and the UNEP Bali Guidelines into the Commonwealth laws that relate to environmental decision-making and dispute resolution. Despite this, it is equally evident that many aspects of these laws do not completely conform to the standards of best practice for facilitating environmental justice reflected in these international instruments.”
In the article, the authors:
- review the international environmental law instruments that provide the foundation for the EDI;
- explain the history, content, scope, methodology and limitations of the EDI and Australia’s country profile;
- outline Australia’s overall EDI score and the results it achieved in the areas of access to information, public participation and access to justice; and
- comment on the reasons why Australia registered a particular score for each given indicator.
Dwyer and Preston make various recommendations for law reform – including proposing new legislation, modelled on the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth), to provide access to environmental information; legislation to facilitate public participation in environmental decision-making processes; and reforms to standing provisions, court procedures and administrative practices to improve access to justice in environmental matters.
Dwyer GJ and Preston JA, “Striving for Best Practice in Environmental Governance and Justice: Reporting on the Inaugural Environmental Democracy Index for Australia” (2015) 32 EPLJ 202 is available online now in Vol 32, Pt 3 of the Environmental and Planning Law Journal.
For further information on the Environmental Democracy Index and its upcoming launch see http://www.wri.org/our-work/project/environmental-democracy-index and http:///www.wri.org/events/2015/05/environmental-democracy-index-launch.
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