European Commission welcomes the agreement on environmental liability

The European Commission welcomes the political agreement by the EU Environment Ministers recently on the Directive on environmental liability.

Jun 18th, 2003


June 18, 2003 -- The European Commission welcomes the political agreement by the EU Environment Ministers recently on the Directive on environmental liability.

Commissioner for environment, Margot Wallström, said: "After a decade of attempts to legislate EU-wide in this sensitive area we finally have an agreement. It is a new important step to put in place the polluter-pays principle and to protect the bio diversity in the EU."

The Directive on environmental liability is based on the polluter-pays principle. It establishes a framework whereby environmental damage can be prevented or remedied. It requires operators to take preventive action where there is an imminent threat of damage and remedial action - at their own expense - when damage occurs.

The Directive applies to all environmental damage, and imminent threat of damage, in relation to a wide range of activities including those in Annex I of the Directive 96/61/EC concerning integrated pollution prevention and control.

It also covers industrial activities such as energy, production and processing of heavy metals, mineral industry, chemical industry and waste management. For all other activities the Directive applies only in cases of damage to protected species and natural habitats. It also foresees the right of NGO's to request that action is taken by competent authorities in cases where rights under the Directive are not being respected. The agreement includes the following issues:

* A financial security system in two steps. In the first step the Member States shall actively encourage the development of financial security instruments and markets, including financial mechanisms in the case of insolvency. The aim is to enable insurance to cover environmental damages. The second step is to be taken five years after the Directive has come into force. The Commission shall then report on the need and feasibility of a mandatory insurance system.

* Defense permit and mitigating factors. In certain cases Member States may allow a company not to bear the cost of a remedying of an environmental damage, for instance when an emission or event was expressly authorized.

* Subsidiary state liability. When a company cannot be held liable a Member State may take the cost of the remedy itself.


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