Environmental Liability

Current situation

The European Parliament and Council adopted the Directive on Environmental Liability with Regard to the Prevention and Remedying of Environmental Damage (2004/35/EC) on 21 April 2004..In November 2008 only two thirds of Member States had completed the transposition into national law and in mid-2009 there were still three that hadn’t fully transposed it.

The Environmental Liability Directive (ELD) is an important tool for environment protection by introducing the “polluters pay” principle. This is the reason why EEB has been involved in this issue since the beginning of the discussions ten years ago. However, the final text of the Directive is relatively weak and leaves Members States many options for its transposition into the national level.

The Commission shall shortly present a report on the Directive’s requirements in terms of actual remediation of environmental damage and financial security. In preparation of this report the Commission carried out in 2008 a first exploratory study. A revision of the functioning of the Directive is not envisaged until 2014. As there are hardly any cases with reference to ELD it is extremely difficult to assess how useful a tool it is in terms of remediation and if the financial security recommendations are sufficient.

What is the EEB doing?

As the ELD leaves options open for Members States in several key aspects of the Directive, there is potential for stakeholders at national level to substantially influence how the Directive is applied. NGOs at national level should be particularly vigilant as the debates on the transposition of the directive into a national legal system could open the door to attempts to weaken existing national legislation or law. That’s why the EEB was closely following the transposition process, making recommendations to its members encouraging them to follow the process at national level.

So far there have been no major cases with reference to the ELD and so the EEB’s law-group will discuss the possibility to ask for a revision of the directive. If we want the directive to be used the wording needs to be stronger with clear instructions and requirements.