[As most Harmless Sky readers will know, climate science can be a pretty secretive business. David Holland has spent much time attempting to bring important information about research that underpins global warming alarmism into the public domain. He has written an excellent critique of Michael Mann's Hockey Stick graph and the IPCC processes which allowed a shoddy piece of research to become a political icon. He has also co-authored an analysis of the Stern Review with Ross McKitrick, Bob Carter, Richard Lintzen Nigel Lawson and others. ]
From time to time Brits have complained that only we bother to implement EU Directives properly, and then with some vigour and occasional gold plating. We note, sometimes admiringly, the apparent lack of their enforcement the further south one goes in Europe. Directive 2003/4/EC, on the other hand, is an exception because it is almost universally honoured in its breach. In a preamble it refers to a little known convention, to which the EU is a signatory, and states that provisions of Community Law must be consistent with it. To understand the importance of the convention and the directive you have to consider the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 – the EIR.
The EIR came to public attention when Mr Justice Sullivan, on a judicial review request from Greenpeace, required the British Government to redo its consultation over nuclear energy. An important part of his judgement was:
Whatever the position may be in other policy areas, in the development of policy in the environmental field consultation is no longer a privilege to be granted or withheld at will by the executive. The United Kingdom Government is a signatory to the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (“the Aarhus Convention”).
Ultimately, it is the Aarhus Convention that has primacy and to which those interested in “Justice in Environmental Matters” should look. There is, incidentally, a Compliance Committee to which anyone may report breaches of the convention. Article 1 states the objectives of the convention to be:
In order to contribute to the protection of the right of every person of present and future generations to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well being, each Party shall guarantee the rights of access to information, public participation in decision-making, and access to justice in environmental matters in accordance with the provisions of this Convention.
Thus, if we take the case of the BBC, the exemption they claim from the EIR (see here) would have to be capable of justification under both the Directive and the Aarhus Convention or the British Government is in breach of EU Law. The BBC will resist being subject to the EIR, no doubt at public expense, perhaps as far as the House of Lords as they have with the Freedom of Information Act, but they are likely to loose on EIR.
In respect of the climate change debate generally, so far as I can tell every Aarhus signatory has ignored some of its less obvious provisions. Firstly, the Parties to the convention, each bound themselves, in Article 3(7) to promote the application of the principles of the convention in international environmental decision-making processes and within the framework of international organisations in matters relating to the environment. The British and most European Governments signed the convention in 1988. They have a substantial voice within the IPCC and yet, so far as I can tell, have made absolutely zero effort to open up the IPCC to even the most modest standards of transparency, disclosure and access to justice.
Secondly, Article 5(1) states that each Party shall ensure that public authorities possess and update environmental information which is relevant to their functions and that mandatory systems are established so that there is an adequate flow of information to public authorities about proposed and existing activities which may significantly affect the environment. Despite the UK ratifying the convention in early 2005, I have not found a single ‘publication scheme’ anywhere, in respect of the IPCC assessments, that is compliant.
Defra, until recently the designated ‘focal point’ for the UK’s participation in the IPCC assessments has no such scheme and utterly failed to meet its Aarhus 5(1) obligation, acquiring and publishing almost no information at all. For instance Defra never bothered to ask for the consolidated expert reviewers comments on any of the drafts of any of the chapters of the IPCC report. Nor did it bother to ask any of the British Review Editors, whose expenses it paid on behalf of the British taxpayers, to give Defra a copy of the written report they were required to submit. The British Government’s entitlement to these is prescribed clearly and specifically in the IPCC mandate.
However the IPCC mandate also states at the outset that its role is to undertake its assessments on a comprehensive, objective, open, and transparent basis. On the face of it that must mean that every scrap of information should be promptly accessible. The IPCC rule is clear, what is lacking is any enforcement process.
The Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia holds a lot of environmental information in its publication scheme, but until recently it was almost exclusively the end results of it its research work and little raw data and methodology was released. Thanks in no small measure to a handful of determined critics such as the late John Daly, Warwick Hughes and Steve McIntyre, CRU is slowly opening up its database. Its mindset is shown on page 47 of the final report on the EU funded SO&P project published in September 2006 – 18 months after the EIR became the law of the land. Professor Briffa and Dr Osborn state with the arrogance common amongst some paleoclimatologists:
Note that some of the deliverables are password-protected because they are not appropriate for completely open dissemination. The password can be requested from the project coordinator (Tim Osborn). Data will be provided in most cases for agreed collaborative projects.
This is tantamount to what CRU’s Director infamously emailed to Warwick Hughes:
Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?
To date the main beneficiaries of Aarhus have been the well organised, and well-funded, environmental organisations. However, justice in environmental matters must include the right of the public to be satisfied that scientific and economic basis of policies is properly established to ensure that our material well-being is not squandered on foolhardy or unsound projects which have little possibility of achieving the environmental benefits claimed of them