Improving the dissemination of scientific and technological knowledge, whether in the form of information on the environment or technical know-how on the best ways to deal with environmental problems, is a well-established objective of international environmental law. Information, including scientific expertise, is widely recognised as a prerequisite to effective national and international environmental management, protection and cooperation. The availability of, and access to, information allows preventative and mitigation measures to be taken, ensures the participation of citizens in national decision-making processes, and can influence individual, consumer and corporate behaviour. Information also allows the international community to determine whether states are complying with their legal obligations. Technical assistance, provided especially to developing countries, and wider dissemination of state-of-the-art technologies, including ‘clean technologies’, are likewise seen as central to international environmental law implementation efforts.
This chapter considers international rules regarding the dissemination of environmental information and clean technologies. The period since the first edition of this book has seen many significant developments in both areas, reflecting the increasing emphasis on effective implementation of international environmental obligations. In the field of environmental information these include the 1998 Aarhus Convention, which establishes a Europe-wide regime for access to environmental information, public participation, and access to justice in environmental cases; the Aarhus Convention's 2003 Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers; and several other agreements such as the 1998 Chemicals Convention, the 2000 Biosafety Protocol, the 2001 POPs Convention, the 2010 Nagoya Protocol and the 2015 Paris Agreement, which include prominent commitments to ensuring appropriate flows of information and the dissemination of scientific information and expertise. Arbitral tribunals, including those in the trade field, have also demonstrated an increasing acceptance of the importance of transparency and the public availability of information, with a trend to greater transparency for proceedings concerning international environmental matters.
Over the same period, provisions regarding technical assistance and technology transfer have also become a standard feature of international environmental agreements, with growing acceptance of the linkage – first articulated in treaties such as the 1992 Biodiversity and Climate Change Conventions – between the implementation by developing country parties of their treaty commitments and the transfer of technology and know-how from developed country parties in fulfilment of their treaty obligations.