Environmental Liability: Commission announces guidelines to identify how environmental damage needs to be prevented and remediated

The Commission adopted today guidelines which clarify the scope of the term ‘environmental damage’ in the Directive on environmental liability. These guidelines will help Member States to better assess in which ways damage to water, land and protected species and natural habitats must be prevented or restored by explaining the scope of each of these categories in detail. They will provide greater legal clarity and harmonisation of its interpretation and application. Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “Nature is under severe pressure from human activity and pollution, and halting the loss of biodiversity is a huge challenge for us all.  These new guidelines will help towards achieving the objectives of our Biodiversity Strategy and the upcoming Zero Pollution Action Plan by making it clearer when operators are liable for environmental damage that they cause.” The Directive on environmental liability aims at establishing a framework of environmental liability, based on the ‘polluter pays’ principle – operators become thus liable to prevent and restore any environmental damage caused by their activities. An earlier Commission evaluation showed that a lack of common understanding among Member States and stakeholders on the application of the term ‘environmental damage’ was weakening the Directive’s implementation. The notion of ‘environmental damage’ is also closely related to other EU legal requirements, notably in the Birds DirectiveHabitats Directive, the Water Framework Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. The guidelines therefore also contribute to fulfilling the objectives of these laws, as well as of the Biodiversity Strategy by clarifying the links with environmental damage. More information available in this news item.