One of the main objectives of the 1st EC legislation is the application of “the polluter pays” principle. This directive establishes a common framework for liability with a view to preventing and remedying damage to flora and fauna, to the natural habitats to water resources, as well as damage affecting the land. The liability scheme applies to certain specified occupational activities and to others in cases where the operator is at fault or negligent. The public authorities are also responsible for ensuring that operators responsible adopt or found the necessary preventive and remedial measures.
Directive 2004/35/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004, on environmental liability with regard to the prevention and remedying of environmental damage [See amending acts].
The directive establishes a framework for environmental liability based on “the polluter pays” principle, with a view to preventing and remedying environmental damage.
Application scope and liability regime
- Under the terms of the directive, environmental damage is defined as:
- Direct or indirect damage to the aquatic environment covered by Community water management legislation;
- Direct or indirect damage to species and natural habitats protected at Community level by the 1979 “Wild Birds” directive and by the 1992 “Habitats” directive;
- Direct or indirect land contamination which creates a high/considerable/significant risk to/for human health.
The principle of liability applies to environmental damage and imminent threat of damage resulting from occupational activities, where it is possible to establish a causal link between the damage and the activity in question.
The directive distinguishes two complementary situations each one governed by a different liability scheme: occupational activities specifically mentioned in the directive and other occupational activities.
The first liability scheme applies to dangerous or potentially dangerous occupational activities listed in Annex III of the directive. These are mainly agricultural or industrial activities requiring a licence under the directive on integrated pollution prevention and control, activities which discharge heavy metals into water or the air, installations producing dangerous chemical substances, waste management activity (particularly landfills and incinerators) as well as activities concerning GMO’s (genetically modified organisms and micro-organisms). According to this scheme, the operator may be considered responsible even if he is not at fault.
The second liability scheme applies to occupational activities other than those listed in Annex III of the directive, but only when a damage or imminent threat of damage is caused to species and natural habitats protected by Community legislation. In this case, the operator will be liable/responsible only he is at fault or negligent.
The directive provides for a series of cases of exclusion from environmental liability. The liability scheme does not apply, for example, in case of damage or imminent threat of damage resulting from armed conflict, natural catastrophe or activities included in the treaty which establishes the European Atomic Energy Community, national defence or international security activities, as well as activities included in some international conventions listed in Annex IV.
Preventing and remedying damage
Where there is an imminent threat of environmental damage, the competent authority designed by each MemberState calls for the operator (potential polluter) to take the necessary/appropriate preventive measures or will be the authority itself to take such measures and successively recover the incurred expenses.
Where environmental damage has occurred, the competent authority will call for the operator concerned to take the necessary/appropriate remedying measures (determined on the basis of the rules and principles listed in Annex II of the directive), or will be himself to take such measures and successively recover the incurred expenses. Where a considerable number of environmental damage have occurred, the competent authority may determine the order of priority according their compensation.
Environmental damage may have different forms of remedial depending on the type of damage:
- for damage affecting the land, the Directive requires that the land concerned be decontaminated until removing any serious risk of negative impact on human health;
- in terms of the effectiveness of environmental damage remedial, on the availability at reasonable costs and on the terms of insurances and other forms of financial security which regulate the activities included in Annex III.
Where the environmental damage occurs, the “polluter pays” principle is already present in the Treaty which established the European Community. As it prevents from all forms of violation of environmental regulations, this principle contributes to the achievement of objectives and the application of Community policy in this area.
The White Paper on environmental liability, published in February 2000, studied how to apply “the polluter pays” principle with a view to implementing Community environmental policy. At the end of this analysis the conclusion was that a Directive would be the best way to establish a Community environmental liability scheme. This directive is the result of discussions held after the White Paper, when a public consultation was carried out.
NO POLLUTING ALLOWED
Environmental protection plays a fundamental role within the EU / iso f the utmost importance.
The action programme “Environment 2010: our future, our choice” covering the period 2001-2010, firmly believes that an appropriate environmental legislation could promote/encourage the progress both in the business field and in an ever-evolving economic system, in which an environmental policy is crucial for its integration.
It is also fundamental the commitment to counteract climate change and global warming, the protection of nature, the direct connection between environmental and human health-related issues/closely related to public health, the right management of natural resources and waste.
Each of these points aims at being achieved/fulfilled/carried out/put into practice through the application of the already existing legislation, considering its impact on all the EU policies (agriculture, energy development, fishing, industry, national/internal/domestic market and transportation). / by enforcing existing legislation/by taking all the environmental impact into account in all the relevant EU policies.
It is necessary to directly involve both companies and consumers in the search for appropriate solutions to the problems/should be involved in identifying solutions, enabling/giving the people the chance to have access to information regarding environmental safeguard and making them aware of the importance of the correct use of the territory/using land correctly/wisely to make environmental-friendly choices/in order to preserve natural habitats and reduce/minimize urban pollution. During the last 30 years new regulations and five different action programmes have been implemented and the EU has established a comprehensive system of/ environmental safeguard system concerning various issues as/it deals with: noise pollution, recycling and waste disposal, conservation of natural habitats, motor vehicle (exhaust) emissions, polluting chemicals, industrial/labour/work accidents in the workplace/work-related/occupational, bathing waters.
Furthermore, the creation of a European information network about emergencies and intervention in case of catastrophes such as oil slicks/oil spills and forest fires/bushfires, has been/is planned/foreseen…provides for the creation.
Recently/lately, the action programme “Environment 2004-2010”, has highlighted the impact of pollution on health, relating the environmental policies to those for human health and research……which links….to
The legislation/regulation which is, more or less/broadly speaking equivalent within the EU Member States, ensures a generally/almost/roughly the same level of protection homogeneous protection, with a certain flexibility which takes into account all the different local realities. What is more, the whole legislation is continuously updated to meet all the needs/to tackle new issues as they arise; for example, at the moment the law in force on chemicals, which took time to be fully carried out, is being revised. It is to be replaced with the introduction of the REACH system which aim is to equally record, evaluate and authorize chemicals throughout the EU. All this is possible thanks to the creation of a centralized data base, managed by the European Chemicals Agency in Helsinki. The aim of this commitment is to prevent the chemical pollution of air, water, soils and buildings improving the protection of human health and safety, while maintaining/disregarding the European industry competitive.
The entire environmental policy is based on the “polluter pays principle”, in order to foster the respect for higher standards or help the institution of the waste collection and recycling system. This contribution could also be a/in the form of a tax applicable to companies and consumers that use environmental unfriendly products (such as some kind of packaging). Within the Kyoto Protocol, which is the global strategy aimed at fighting against climate change, the EU has introduced the world’s first international emissions trading scheme, the first in the history of environmental policies. Governments assign certain carbon dioxide allowances/shares (the primarily responsible for the greenhouse/up to a certain limit) to each EU company. Those companies that use up to/do not completely manage to consume their carbon credits/permits authorised to sell the surplus/can be sold . Contrarily, those which exceed the limits established and do not acquire trade-off to allowances, are subjected to heavy/hefty fines.
Although/Despite all the obligations deriving from the Kyoto Protocol run only to/will last until 2012, the Commission has already given the go-ahead to the consultation on post 2012 climate change policies/ a long lasting programme to reduce climate change (beyond 2012). When environmental threats are potential rather than proven, the EC applies what is known as the precautionary principle, i.e. protective measures have to be proposed and applied even if there is no real danger.
Recent Action Programme has reflected a change in policy: in the past, mere controls in the use of specific substances or products were made, nowadays the use of safer alternatives, thinking about what will happen when a product reaches the end of its useful life is being encouraged. Car design, for example, must now take into account how the component parts will be recycled and disposed of when the car is out of use.
Citizens play a leading role in the EU environmental policies. They are given a grater chance of having information thanks to the various organizations which can rely on the EU network system funded by the Commission. The eco-label scheme helps citizens make safer purchasing choices in a wide range of goods and services proposed. Finally, what it is worth mentioning is the eco-management and audit scheme known as EMAS. The aim of this scheme/system to which all those services businesses and firms that want to show their compliance with environmental legislations addresses, is to constantly improve the services of the organizations of each sector by involving all the Member States (the direct members of EMAS system) in order to introduce and apply the environmental management system within various businesses as well as to evaluate these systems thanks to the control of independent experts.
The EEA (based in Copenhagen), founded in May 1990, it has been active since 1994 and its task is to collect precise and reliable data on the situation and the evolution of all the environmental issues at European level. The agency is responsible for the provision of data to the persons in charge of the taken up decisions on the subject; for the promotion of practices and more appropriate technologies within the sector, as well as for the support of the European Commission in the spread/popularization of the research carried out.
As far as the financial aspect is concerned, it is worth mentioning to the LIFE programme. Not only is this programme mainly funded by the EU, but also by all those non-EU countries that maintain particularly strong ties with Europe. The funds collected are then invested for the environment both in the EU countries and in the so-called “third” countries such as Romania, Turkey and the Balkans (EU accession countries), as well as in countries bordering the Baltic and the Mediterranean. The LIFE programme unfolds in/through various stages. The first two have already concluded: the first one, from 1992 to 1995, got a 400 million euros fund, while the second (from 1996 to 1999) got 450 million euros. The third stage which is still in progress, with an initial 640 million euros fund, has been extended from 2004 to December 2006, getting an additional benefit of 317 million euros. In order to get funds from Life programme, projects must:
- Be in line with the expected objectives;
- Pertain to/concern Community interest;
- Be presented by reliable participants;
- Be achievable in all aspects (financial, technical, practical).
MEDA is another programme providing financial aid to the countries in the southern Mediterranean (Northern Africa, islands, the Middle East) in order to ensure political, economic and social assistance.