Áine Ryall

teaches and researches Environmental Law, European Union (EU) Law and the Law of Torts at the Faculty of Law, University College Cork, Ireland.  She is a graduate of the London School of Economics (LLM) and the European University Institute, Florence (PhD).  A qualified barrister, her main areas of specialisation include: environmental assessment, implementation and enforcement of EU environmental law, access to justice and the Aarhus Convention.  Áine is a member of the Academic Panel at Francis Taylor Building, Inner Temple, London since 2004 and serves on the Board of the Irish Centre for European Law (ICEL).  She is a member of the Irish Environmental Protection Agency’s Advisory Committee (2013-2016) and served as a member of the Government-appointed Environmental Protection Agency Review Group (2010-2011).  Áine has written widely on environmental law matters both in Ireland and internationally.  Her book Effective Judicial Protection and the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive was published by Hart Publishing, Oxford in 2009.  Recent research projects include: an analysis of Irish implementation of the access to justice obligations in the Aarhus Convention for the EU Commission (2012) and a study of specialist environmental courts and tribunals in the EU for the EU-China Environmental Governance Programme (2013).

Research Project

Mapping the Future of Environmental Justice: The Transformative Effect of International & European Union Law

Delivering effective and affordable environmental justice is a pressing challenge for the European Union (EU) and the Member States.  An innovative international Treaty - the Aarhus Convention on Access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters (1998) - is proving to be a powerful force for change at EU and national level.  A rich body of jurisprudence interpreting the scope of Aarhus Convention obligations is emerging steadily from the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).  As expected, both the Compliance Committee and the CJEU have championed the public interest in effective enforcement of environmental law at national level and have adopted a consistently robust approach when called upon to interpret Aarhus obligations.  It is clear, however, that access to environmental justice remains problematic in practice.  The Aarhus mandate to deliver ‘wide access to justice’ that is ‘not prohibitively expensive’ does not always sit comfortably with deeply entrenched rules and practice at national level.  Not surprisingly, fear of an avalanche of environmental litigation if traditional restrictions on access to the courts are diluted has led to an understandable reluctance to engage enthusiastically with Aarhus and EU obligations on the part of national legislatures and judges.  In light of these practical realities, how can the ambitious vision of ‘wide’ and affordable access to environmental justice be delivered without serious disruption to national legal systems?

This research project traces the gradual integration of Aarhus principles into EU law and explores the practical implications of Aarhus obligations for access to environmental justice at national level.  It provides a detailed critical appraisal of the ‘Europeanisation’ of environmental law and the future of environmental law enforcement in the EU.