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The right to access to environmental information is derived from the following sources:

  • international agreements and instruments
  • law and other measures adopted by the European Union
  • UK laws covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland - Scotland has separate but similar legislation on access to information.

International agreements and instruments

Rio Declaration on Environment and Development
From the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Principle 10 recommends greater public access to environmental information held by public authorities, with each country responsible for ensuring this.
Agenda 21
The Blueprint policy document of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Section 40 (Information for Decision Making) requires greater access to environmental information to facilitate proper decision-making.
Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters 1998 (Aarhus Convention)
The Aarhus Convention encompasses the following three 'pillars' for promoting public participation in environmental law and practice:
i. Access to environmental information
ii. Public participation in environmental decision-making
iii. Access to environmental justice (i.e. the ability to challenge environmental decisions).

How will leaving the EU change things?

BrexitPicv2

Environmental laws that come from Europe will continue to apply for the time being. Find out more on our Brexit FAQs page.

Law and other measures adopted by the European Union

Directive 2003/4/EC on public access to environmental information
This Directive incorporates the provisions and requirements of the Aarhus Convention on access to environmental information.
Directive 2007/2/EC establishing an Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the European Community (INSPIRE)
This Directive aims to promote public access to geographical data about the environment, data sharing, and joined up networks of information across the European Union.

National laws

Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI)
The FOI applies to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Subject to certain exemptions, the FOI provides general access rights to information held by public authorities. Section 74 gives the Secretary of State power to make regulations on access to environmental information. The Scottish FOI contains similar provisions.
Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002
The Scottish Act applies in relation to information held by Scottish public authorities. It is similar in most respects to the FOI.
Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIRs)
The EIRs apply to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Under the EIRs, the general public has the right to access environmental information held by public authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The EIRs implement the provisions of EC Directive 2003/04.
Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004
The Scottish regulations apply in relation to environmental information held by Scottish public authorities. They are similar in most respects to the EIRs.
INSPIRE Regulations 2009 (SI 2009/3157)
These Regulations implement the INSPIRE Directive in England, Northern Ireland and Wales. They were amended in 2012 by the INSPIRE (Amendment) Regulations 2012.
INSPIRE (Scotland) Regulations 2009 (SSI 2009 No 440)
These Regulations implement the INSPIRE Directive in Scotland. They were amended in 2012 by the INSPIRE (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2012.

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