Skip Navigation
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, Public Service Delivery

IRM Review

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

Starred: No

Early Results: Did Not Change

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.] 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.


Commitments

Open Government Partnership