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Norway

Transparency Regarding Environmental Information (NO0047)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Norway National Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Climate and Environment

Support Institution(s): Public Authorities handling environmental information

Policy Areas

E-Government, Environment and Climate, Legislation & Regulation

IRM Review

IRM Report: Norway End-of-Term Report 2016-2018, Norway Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed: Lack of knowledge about and use of the Environmental Information Act Act relating to the right to environmental information and participation in decisionmaking processes relating to the environment [Environmental Information Act] of 9 May 2013 no. 31. Main Objective: Improved knowledge and use of the Environmental Information Act Brief Description of Commitment (140 character limit): Improved knowledge and use of the Environmental Information Act. Measure: Prepare guides; Internal courses at the Ministry. Relevance: Increased knowledge about and wider use of the Environmental Information Act, both by the public and by the public 7 administration, will result in increased transparency and engagement and will help to improve legislation, policies, governance, and thereby also the environment Ambition: The Environmental Information Act is well known. It is used in accordance with its purpose: to ensure public access to environmental information and thereby make it easier for individuals to contribute to protecting the environment and to safeguard against health hazards and environmental degradation. This makes it easier to influence public and private decision-makers on environmental issues and it promotes public participation in decision-making processes that affect the environment.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

3. Transparency regarding environmental information

Commitment Text:

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed: Lack of knowledge about and use of the Environmental Information Act relating to the right to environmental information and participation in decision making processes relating to the environment [Environmental Information Act] of 9 May 2013 no. 31.

Main Objective: Improved knowledge and use of the Environmental Information Act

Brief Description of Commitment: Improved knowledge and use of the Environmental Information Act.

Measure: Prepare guides; Internal courses at the Ministry.

Relevance: Increased knowledge about and wider use of the Environmental Information Act, both by the public and by the public 7 administration, will result in increased transparency and engagement and will help to improve legislation, policies, governance, and thereby also the environment

Ambition: The Environmental Information Act is well known. It is used in accordance with its purpose: to ensure public access to environmental information and thereby make it easier for individuals to contribute to protecting the environment and to safeguard against health hazards and environmental degradation. This makes it easier to influence public and private decision-makers on environmental issues and it promotes public participation in decision-making processes that affect the environment.

Responsible institution: Ministry of Climate and Environment

Supporting institution(s): Public authorities handling environmental information (none specified)

Start date: 2014 . End date: 2017

Context and Objectives

The Environmental Information Act was passed in 2003. Its purpose is to ensure public access to environmental information, and public participation in environmental decision-making processes.[Note: Environmental Information Act, https://www.regjeringen.no/en/dokumenter/environmental-information-act/id173247/. ] It allows citizens to request environmental information not only from public authorities, but also from private enterprises. The Rainforest Foundation Norway has successfully used the law to request information from Norwegian food producers and retailers regarding palm oil content in their consumer products.[Note: Telephone interview with Nils Hermann Ranum, Rainforest Foundation of Norway, 15 December 2017. Based on this information, the Rainforest Foundation has published a web portal listing foods with information on their palm oil content. See (in Norwegian only) https://www.regnskog.no/no/hva-du-kan-gjore/bruk-mindre-palmeolje/palmeoljeguiden.%5D While environmental NGOs and activists are well aware of the act, they believe it is underutilized, , in particular, as more requests for environmental information could be requested from businesses. .[Note: Interview with Silje Lundberg, chair, Friends of the Earth Norway, 15 December 2017.] Among Norwegian public authorities, sufficientknowledge of the act’s provisions and how they can be applied in practice is lacking.[Note: Interview with Professor Ole Kristian Fauchald, Faculty of Law, University of Oslo, 22 November 2017.] One example is that journalists’ and environmentalists’ requests for environmental information from public authorities are often considered only in light of the Freedom of Information Act, and not the Environmental Information Act.[Note: Interview with Advisor Kristine Foss, The Norwegian Press Association, 5 December 2017, and Silje Lundberg, chair, Friends of the Earth Norway, 15 December 2017.]

One of the reasons for the in-house courses and perceived need to raise awareness among public administration bodies is a case brought before the compliance committee of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making, and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (the Aarhus Convention). In this case, the Norwegian government was found not to be 'expeditious' and 'timely.' This led to an increased awareness and scrutiny of government practices, hence, the need for in-house courses.[Note: More information about the compliance committee case can be found at http://www.unece.org/ru/environmental-policy/dejatelnost-po-usileniju-potenciala/public-participation/aarhus-convention/tfwg/envppcc/envpppubcom/acccc201393-norway.html. ]

The commitment is clearly relevant to the OGP value of access to information. To promote better knowledge of the act within the public administration and among the public, the government has committed to improving information about it on the website, http://www.regjeringen.no, developing relevant guidelines, and providing courses for public authorities. The action plan lists milestones as having started prior to the current action plan and refers to them as ongoing activities.

The specificity of this commitment is medium, due to the relatively clear ambition and language, and the concrete results, such as guidelines and courses envisioned. However, the first milestone is not specific, and is more an aspirational goal of having improved information on the government website, rather than an activity. The third milestone is to provide courses to public officials. However, these activities commenced prior to the action plan period. According to the Ministry of Climate and Environment, several in-house courses were already held in 2014 and 2015. One course was provided to other public authorities, namely the Norwegian Directorate for Fisheries, in 2015. According to the ministry, the plan is to offer the course to different institutions, but it has not been decided to which ones. The ambition is to synchronize this with the launch of the delayed guidelines.[Note: The IRM researcher received course material, dates for courses provided, and information regarding future plans in an email from commitment PoC Beate Berglund Ekeberg, Ministry of Climate and Environment, 16 November 2017.] The fact that activities were already taking place prior to the action plan diminishes the potential impact to minor.

Completion

Overall, the commitment has made limited progress. There is no indication on the government website that information regarding the act has been changed in any way since 13 January 2014.[Note: The government information this refers to is available at https://www.regjeringen.no/no/dokument/dep/kld/lover_regler/rett-til-miljoinformasjon/id445355/. This website is checked by waybackmachine.org, and there are no changes within the action plan period. This is also confirmed in a telephone interview with the commitment PoC. Telephone interview with commitment PoC Beate Berglund Ekeberg, Ministry of Climate and Environment, 15 November 2017.] Neither is the milestone mentioned in the government’s self-assessment report from October 2017. It seems that this milestone, labelled as 'ongoing' in the action plan, was included without any clear target for change within the current action plan period. The development of the act’s guidelines is delayed, the drafting of the guidelines is conducted by the Department for Marine Management and Pollution within the ministry, and is expected for public consultation by the end of 2017. No specific reason for the delay was provided in the self-assessment, or in the interview with the commitment’s PoC.[Note: Ibid.] A search of internal documents in the OEP database, using the search term ‘miljøinformasjon’ (environmental information in Norwegian), does not give any results indicating that work to develop guidelines has been archived.[Note: As the Ministry of Climate and the Environment registers internal documents, this indicates that work on the commitment’s activities has left few concrete traces. The search was conducted for the entire action plan period.]

The information provided to the IRM researcher from the ministry indicates that there is no plan for conducting courses for public bodies.[Note: Ibid.] There are no publicly available statistics on the number of requests addressed directly to private businesses, but the number of complaints directed to the Arbitration Committee on Environmental Matters is relatively stable.[Note: Telephone interview with Hege Langeland, head of the Secretariat for the Arbitration Committee for Environmental Matters, 30 November 2017. ] According to the point of contact in the ministry, the courses for officials would have been held either way, although including them in the OGP action plan may have given them a 'slightly higher priority.'

Next Steps

To complete this commitment, it is recommended that the government finish and distribute act related guidelines by the end of the action plan. The next action plan could include a commitment with courses targeting journalists, since the act has the potential to be a useful tool for media to request environmental information from businesses. The Ministry of Climate and Environment could consider providing such courses in partnership with the Norwegian Press Association.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

3. Transparency regarding environmental information

Commitment Text:

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed: Lack of knowledge about and use of the Environmental Information Act relating to the right to environmental information and participation in decision making processes relating to the environment [Environmental Information Act] of 9 May 2013 no. 31.

Main Objective: Improved knowledge and use of the Environmental Information Act

Brief Description of Commitment: Improved knowledge and use of the Environmental Information Act.

Measure: Prepare guides; Internal courses at the Ministry.

Relevance: Increased knowledge about and wider use of the Environmental Information Act, both by the public and by the public 7 administration, will result in increased transparency and engagement and will help to improve legislation, policies, governance, and thereby also the environment

Ambition: The Environmental Information Act is well known. It is used in accordance with its purpose: to ensure public access to environmental information and thereby make it easier for individuals to contribute to protecting the environment and to safeguard against health hazards and environmental degradation. This makes it easier to influence public and private decision-makers on environmental issues and it promotes public participation in decision-making processes that affect the environment.

Responsible institution: Ministry of Climate and Environment

Supporting institution(s): Public authorities handling environmental information (none specified)

Start date: 2014 . End date: 2017

Commitment Aim:

To promote better knowledge of the Environmental Information Act (2003) within public administration and among the public, the government has committed to improving information about it on the website, http://www.regjeringen.no, developing relevant guidelines, and providing courses for public authorities.

Status

Midterm: Limited

The commitment had made limited progress at midterm. There was no indication on the government website that information regarding the act had been changed in any way since 13 January 2014.[Note11: The government information this refers to, https://www.regjeringen.no/no/dokument/dep/kld/lover_regler/rett-til-mil.... This website is checked by waybackmachine.org, and there are no changes within the action plan period. This is also confirmed in a telephone interview with the commitment PoC Beate Berglund Ekeberg, Ministry of Climate and Environment, 15 November 2017.] Development of the act’s guidelines was delayed, and was expected to be out for public consultation by the end of 2017. No specific reason for the delay was provided in the self-assessment, or in the interview with the commitment’s PoC.[Note12: Ibid.] For more information, please see the 2016–2017 IRM midterm report.

End-of-Term: Limited

Since the progress report, no specific activity has been carried out related to this commitment. The government still intends to develop guidelines but has no plan for when these will be published.[Note13: Telephone interview with commitment PoC Beate Berglund Ekeberg, Ministry of Climate and Environment, 28 September 2018.] Courses for public officials are contingent on the publication of the guidelines.

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Did Not Change

No new information has been provided on the government website since 2014 and there is no publicly available evidence that access to environmental information has been improved in practice. The limited implementation of this commitment has not led to any change in government practices on improving understanding and access to information on the act.

Carried Forward?

This commitment is not carried forward, but according to the Ministry representative it is expected that the government will finish and distribute act related guidelines as soon as possible.


Norway's Commitments

  1. Archiving Documents

    NO0054, 2019, Capacity Building

  2. Making Energy Statistics Available

    NO0055, 2019, E-Government

  3. e-Access and Expansion

    NO0056, 2019, Civic Space

  4. Open Cultural Data

    NO0057, 2019, E-Government

  5. Digital Spatial Planning

    NO0058, 2019, E-Government

  6. Streamline Public Procurement

    NO0059, 2019, E-Government

  7. Preventing Corruption

    NO0060, 2019, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  8. Beneficial Ownership Registry

    NO0061, 2019, Beneficial Ownership

  9. User Orientation

    NO0045, 2016, Capacity Building

  10. Electronic Public Records (OEP)

    NO0046, 2016, E-Government

  11. Transparency Regarding Environmental Information

    NO0047, 2016, E-Government

  12. Starred commitment Disclosure of Financial Data

    NO0048, 2016, E-Government

  13. Transparency Regarding Rainforest Funds

    NO0049, 2016, E-Government

  14. State Employees’ Ownership of Shares

    NO0050, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  15. Promote Freedom of Expression and Independent Media

    NO0051, 2016, Civic Space

  16. Country-By-Country Reporting

    NO0052, 2016, Extractive Industries

  17. Register for Ultimate Beneficial Ownership

    NO0053, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  18. Public Review and Public Consultation

    NO0020, 2013, Capacity Building

  19. Registering and Preserving Digital Documentation Produced by Public Bodies

    NO0021, 2013, E-Government

  20. The Norwegian Citizen Survey (Innbyggerundersøkelsen)

    NO0022, 2013, Public Participation

  21. Whistleblowing

    NO0023, 2013, Whistleblower Protections

  22. Strengthened Information Exchange for More Efficient Crime Prevention and Combating

    NO0024, 2013, Justice

  23. Strengthening the Transparency of Public Authorities and Administration

    NO0025, 2013, Capacity Building

  24. Egovernment with an End-User Focus

    NO0026, 2013, E-Government

  25. Plain Legal Language

    NO0027, 2013, Capacity Building

  26. Norwegian Grants Portal (MFA)

    NO0028, 2013, Aid

  27. An International Convention or Agreement on Financial Transparency

    NO0029, 2013, Private Sector

  28. Reducing Conflicts of Interests – Post-Employment Regulations

    NO0030, 2013, Conflicts of Interest

  29. Centre for Integrity in the Defence Sector

    NO0031, 2013, Security

  30. A Better Overview of Committees, Boards and Councils – More Public Access to Information and Better Opportunities for Further Use

    NO0032, 2013, E-Government

  31. Modernizing Public Governance

    NO0033, 2013, Capacity Building

  32. Transparency in the Management of Oil and Gas Revenues

    NO0034, 2013, Extractive Industries

  33. Transparency in the Management of the Government Pension Fund (GPF)

    NO0035, 2013, E-Government

  34. Transparency and Anti-Corruption Efforts

    NO0036, 2013, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  35. The Municipal Sector

    NO0037, 2013, Education

  36. “Simplify” (“Enkelt Og Greit”)

    NO0038, 2013, E-Government

  37. Electronic Public Records (OEP) – (Offentlig Elektronisk Postjournal)

    NO0039, 2013, E-Government

  38. Re-Use of Public Sector Information (PSI)

    NO0040, 2013, Capacity Building

  39. Access to Health Data

    NO0041, 2013, E-Government

  40. Renewal of the Government’S Website (Regjeringen.No – Government.No)

    NO0042, 2013, E-Government

  41. Declaration of Principles for Interaction and Dialogue with NGOs

    NO0043, 2013, Capacity Building

  42. Simplification and Digital Administration of Arrangements for NGOs

    NO0044, 2013, Capacity Building

  43. An Open Public Sector and Inclusive Government

    NO0001, 2011, Capacity Building

  44. Measures to Promote Gender Equality and Women’S Full Participation in Civic Life, the Private Sector, the Public Administration and Political Processes.

    NO0002, 2011, Gender

  45. Gender Equality – Participation in the Private Sector

    NO0003, 2011, Gender

  46. Increase Women's Representation in Local Government

    NO0004, 2011, Gender

  47. Gender Equality Program

    NO0005, 2011, Gender

  48. Gender Equality – Inclusion of Immigrant Women

    NO0006, 2011, Gender

  49. Gender Equality – Combat Gender Stereotypes

    NO0007, 2011, Gender

  50. Gender Equality – Youth Initiatives

    NO0008, 2011, Gender

  51. Gender Equality – Combat Domestic Violence

    NO0009, 2011, Gender

  52. Transparency in the Management of Oil and Gas Revenues / Financial Transparency

    NO0010, 2011, Aid

  53. Transparency in the Management of Oil and Gas Revenues / Financial Transparency – Government Global Pension Fund

    NO0011, 2011, Fiscal Transparency

  54. Transparency in the Management of Oil and Gas Revenues / Financial Transparency – Combat Tax Evasion

    NO0012, 2011, Fiscal Transparency

  55. Transparency in the Management of Oil and Gas Revenues / Financial Transparency – Multi-National Companies

    NO0013, 2011, Fiscal Transparency

  56. An Open Public Sector and Inclusive Government – Create Central Communication Policy

    NO0014, 2011, Fiscal Transparency

  57. An Open Public Sector and Inclusive Government

    NO0015, 2011, E-Government

  58. An Open Public Sector and Inclusive Government – Public Data Use

    NO0016, 2011, Public Participation

  59. An Open Public Sector and Inclusive Government – National Statistic Publication

    NO0017, 2011, Open Data

  60. An Open Public Sector and Inclusive Government – National Public Opinion Survey

    NO0018, 2011, Records Management

  61. An Open Public Sector and Inclusive Government

    NO0019, 2011, Public Participation