The Aarhus Convention
The Aarhus Convention requires that for environmental projects, governments are required to provide to the public: access to environmental information, opportunities to participate in decision making and access to justice.
An implementation guide to the Convention document is at: http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/env/pp/acig.pdf
The Convention has 41 signatories.
Article 6 Para 6 of the Convention states:
Each Party (i.e. signatory to the Convention) shall require the competent public authorities to give the public concerned access for examination, upon request where so required under national law, free of charge and as soon as it becomes available, to all information relevant to the decision-making referred to in this article.
The relevant information shall include at least, and without prejudice to the provisions of article 4:
- A description of the site and the physical and technical characteristics of the proposed activity, including an estimate of the expected residues and emissions;
- A description of the significant effects of the proposed activity on the environment;
- A description of the measures envisaged to prevent and/or reduce the effects, including emissions;
- A non-technical summary of the above;
- An outline of the main alternatives studied by the applicant;
- In accordance with national legislation, the main reports and advice issued to the public authority at the time when the public concerned shall be informed in accordance with paragraph 2 above
Therefore, in relation to (e), a Party that makes a proposal about environmental matters is required by European Law to carry out an option analysis.
The SEA Directive
The SEA (Strategic Environmental Assessment) DIRECTIVE 2001/42/EC of the European Parliament.
Under this directive:
A Strategic Environmental assessment (SEA) is mandatory for plans/programmes which are prepared for agriculture, forestry, fisheries, energy, industry, transport, waste/water management, telecommunications, tourism, town & country planning or land use...
The SEA procedure can be summarized as follows: an environmental report is prepared in which the likely significant effects on the environment and the reasonable alternatives of the proposed plan or programme are identified. The public and the environmental authorities are informed and consulted on the draft plan or programme and the environmental report prepared.
Clause 17 of the directive states:
(14) Where an assessment is required by this Directive, an environmental report should be prepared containing relevant information as set out in this Directive, identifying, describing and evaluating the likely significant environmental effects of implementing the plan or programme, and reasonable alternatives taking into account the objectives and the geographical scope of the plan or programme; Member States should communicate to the Commission any measures they take concerning the quality of environmental reports.
(15) In order to contribute to more transparent decision-making and with the aim of ensuring that the information supplied for the assessment is comprehensive and reliable, it is necessary to provide that authorities with relevant environmental responsibilities and the public are to be consulted during the assessment of plans and programmes, and that appropriate time frames are set, allowing sufficient time for consultations, including the expression of opinion.
The SEA Directive therefore requires the consideration of 'reasonable alternatives' and that information used be reliable.