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Aarhus Convention Workshop held in Beijing

On 16 October 2014, EGP held a workshop in Beijing to explore the implications for China’s adoption of the principles of the Aarhus Convention. The workshop was held in order to support the CCICED (China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development) Task Force on Institutional Innovation for Environmental Protection in the context of Ecological Civilization. Key participants included Mr. Wang Yi, member of the CCICED task force; Mr. Yuan Qingdan, Deputy Director of PRCEE; and three experts on the Aarhus Convention,including Ms. Beate Ekeberg, Mr. Jerzy Jendroska, and Ms.Fiona Marshall.

There was strong recommendation amongst all participants that China assign a competent   authority to explore the feasibility of accession to the Aarhus Convention. The majority of Chinese participants were in favor of China acceding to the Aarhus Convention by 2020. There was unanimous agreement on a set of 8 actions that China could pursue in the coming years in order to benefi t from the experience of the Convention and further explore the feasibility of accession, these included: Initiate communication/exchange with the Aarhus Convention;Conduct a comprehensive analysis; Translation to Chinese relevant documents and other  related training and capacity building material.

The Aarhus convention is "governance-by-disclosure" policy leading to a shift toward an environmentally responsible society. It was signed in 1998 and entered into force in 2001. The Convention is a multilateral environmental agreement through which opportunities for citizens’ access to, and transparency of, environmental information are increased and a reliable regulatory procedure is secured. It enhances environmental governance and sets the stage for an interactive, trustworthy relationship between civil society and government. It adds novelty to a mechanism created to empower value to public participation in environmental decision making and guarantees access to justice.

Although China is not a party to the Convention already its environmental policies give emphasis to public participation in environmental protection in recent years. In April 2014 the new Environmental Protection Law of China was passed by the State Council and will take effect in Jan 2015. The Law includes a chapter on information disclosure and public participation, and also give support to civil society organisations in public interest litigation in environmental matters.