IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Annual Colloquium edition:12 location:Universitat Rovira i Virgili,Tarragona, Spain date:30 June - 5 July 2014
Companies are increasingly faced with demands for access to information which until quite recently was considered to fall under business (confidential) secrets and out off bounds for public access. In the environmental sector, however, the Aarhus convention (international, regional law) was one of the first to kick-start discussion on bringing privately held information under public scrutiny, in particular where these companies can be considered to be fulfilling ‘public’ duties, such as water and energy providers. At the EU level, the directives on access to environmental information contain provisions on privately held data. Moreover, the overall transparency Directives and Regulations are being used increasingly to force private companies to hand over data with respect to lobbying activities, scientific reports, risk assessment etc., where this information is held by EU Institutions or by Member States authorities. The perceived change towards a more transparent governance model on environmental and energy matters raises several legal issues that need to be promptly addressed.
The paper examines the current provisions that support access to environmental information held by the private sector from an international and European perspective in order to identify tensions between the people’s right-to-know and legitimate interests of the private sector like business confidentiality.