EU law reflects international environmental law. The most publicised example concerns
the acceleration of the phase out of CFCs etc. arising from the Montreal Protocol
and its amendments.
policies of the European Union (EU) increasingly drive the environmental law of
the UK and other member states.
law drives companies plans about the environment. Some companies see environmental
law as a potential threats to continued survival, others see the potential for
increased revenues. EU environment law offers both a threat and an opportunity.
The first Environmental
Action Plan in 1973 set out a number of principles. They have formed the basis
of EU policy ever since. They are:
Prevention is better
Take into account
environmental effects as early as possible
of nature that causes significant damage to ecological balance
knowledge to enable action to be taken
The polluter should
One Member State's
activities should not cause environmental damage to another State
of Member States should take into account the interest of developing countries
The EU and Members
States should act together in international organisations.
education of the environment is a matter for every citizen
Establish the appropriate
level, whether local, national, or EU for action.
policies must be co-coordinated with EU
Between 1973 and
the Single European Act of 1987, 200 Directives were made dealing with various
parts of the environment. The treaty of Rome was amended by the Single European
Act to include at title headed "environment" providing a clear legal base for
environmental actions for the first time.
The first three
Environmental Programmes (1973-76, 1977-81 & 1982-86) dealt with the acute pollution
problems, leading to a more preventative approach. The main instrument used for
action was a Directive. A Directive has no authority but each member state by
virtue of its membership is required to enact national legislation giving it effect.
The UK does this by statutory instruments and UK regulation. Each Member State
enacts an EU Regulation - e.g. Environmental Management and Audit Systems, exactly
word for word. Directives made in this period continue to determine the progress
of further Directives and implementation of laws in Member States. The most significant
are as follows.
Examples of preventative
Directives include Directive 79/831 on the notification of new chemicals before
marketing (known as the 'sixth amendment') and Directive 85/337 on the environmental
assessment of development projects (environmental impact assessment). This Directive
has been implemented in Town and Country Planning Regulations (1988) requiring
environmental information to be taken into account for granting relevant planning
EU policy on waste
is founded on the 1975 Framework Directive on Waste 75/442. This requires that
waste is disposed of in a way that does not present a risk to human health or
the environment. Because of problems of definitions and implementation, the Directives
on Waste 91/156 and Hazardous Waste 91/689 replaced this. These Directives define
the scope of waste and hazardous waste. They aim to encourage waste minimisation
by waste avoidance, reduction, reuse and recycling, through the adoption of clean
technologies, and to encourage self-sufficiency in waste management. In the UK,
the EPA anticipated some of the changes, and the Environment Act has tidied up
the loose ends.
"Waste" is defined
as a substance the holder "discards, intends to, or is required to discard." The
word "discard" remains undefined so that this definition is largely uncontrolled
and circular. "Hazardous waste" is defined as waste featuring on a list to be
drawn up by the Commission, and defined by 14 hazardous properties. The Directives
do not lay down conditions for permit application or operational requirements.
These are developed in Incineration (see Air below) and Landfill Directives. There
is ongoing discussion on liability for damage from waste and a Directive on recycling
of packaging wastes. EU Ministers have banned the exports of hazardous wastes
to non-OECD countries, in line with the Basle Convention.
The Landfill Capacity
Directive gave substance to permit obligations under 75/442, but it was rejected
by the European Parliament in mid 1996. The opposition was because it lowered
existing standards in some countries, especially rural areas.
The Packaging and
Packaging Waste Directive 92/278 [check latest] aims to reduce the amount of packaging
waste from industrial, business, and private sectors (see UK law for progress
with implementation). US Industry described the Directive as " a brave experiment
in environmental law with serious implications for the free movement of goods
and services" . Packaging is defined as "all products made of any materials of
products, goods, from raw materials to processed goods" The definition covers
a wide range, including wine bottles, bulk wrapping, and pallets. The original
proposal also included plans to reduce the amount of packaging disposed by landfill
to a maximum of 10% in ten years.
EU law relies on
two approaches - to set emission limits of certain substances in flue/exhaust
gases or by defining air quality objectives for substances. The first is the 'technology-driven'
approach, the second 'issue-driven'.
approach tried to control emissions at source, by limiting certain fuel properties.
The sulphur content of gasoils was reduced by a series of Gasoil Directives. The
EU reduced lead in petrol in 1978, and introduced unleaded petrol in the 1985
Directive, that also limited the proportion of benzene to 5%. In 1991 the Consolidated
Emissions Directive imposed severe exhaust emission standards to reduce emissions
by 90%, using catalytic converters. They were installed in all new cars from 1993.
Further Directives for further reductions are expected.
Pollution from Industrial plants control is technology-driven.
Directive 84/360 requires Member States to authorise only
new plants that can demonstrate BATNEEC (see UK Law EPA).
The Large Combustion Plant Directive (88/609) limits emissions
from Sulphur and Nitrogen Oxides and particulates in those
plants. There are various measures to reduce Volatile Organic
Compounds (VOCs) emitted in processes and to reduce by 90%
emissions from the storage of petrol. US industry while seeing
the environmental benefits wishes to assess the impact of
these proposals as they involve considerable costs and important
The Incineration of Hazardous Waste Directive 92/9
establishes uniform, technical and operational criteria for all hazardous waste
incineration facilities, as well as for industrial processes which incinerate
a proportion of hazardous wastes as a fuel supplement. Facilities, which exceed
emission limits, will not be authorised to operate until they comply with set
limits, in particular for dioxins and furans. Industrial plants which incinerate
hazardous waste as a fuel supplement would be subject to differing controls, based
on the heat produced.
The EU is now moving
towards Integrated Pollution Prevention Control (proposed IPPC Directive). Instead
of unconnected laws dealing with each of the three receiving media, land, air
and water, this seeks to integrate all pollution. Various members states, including
the UK (see UK Law, EPA), France and the Netherlands already have introduced their
own integrated system of law, systems and administrative bodies.
Following the issue-driven
approach, the EU adopted, in the 1980s, air quality limits for SOx/suspended particulates
(80/779), NOx (85/203), lead(82/884), and later for ozone (92/72). These provisions
are given effect in the UK, for the first three substances, by the Air Quality
Standards Regulations 1989.
The Air Pollution
by Ozone Directive 92/72 established a harmonised procedure for the monitoring,
and exchange of information and warning the population about air pollution. The
ultimate intention is to gather information to set air quality limits in tropospheric
ozone. The UK have yet to introduce laws for this Directive, but you can find
out the relevant information through the Air Quality Telephone Line.
EU signed the ECG - Convention on long range transboundary
pollution, and the EMEP Protocol on the monitoring of transmission of air pollutants.
The associated Protocols on VOC, sulphur and nitrogen oxides
with emission reduction targets will continue to drive EU
air quality standards. For more check out the European Environment Agency reports at http://www.eea.eu.int/
EU Control of water started with two key Directives in the mid-1970s. Directive
75/440 deals with the principles and standards necessary to improve and sustain
the environmental quality of water intended for drinking. Directive
76/464 regulates the discharge of dangerous substances into surface water.
These two Directives recognise the interconnectedness of ecological systems. They
try to control what we drink by controlling what goes into water and the how that
should be treated. Many further EU regulatory measures build on the principles
of these Directives. Future directions will be influenced by integrated pollution
control (see above) and ecological quality.
has two purposes. The first is to ensure that surface water abstracted for use
as drinking water reaches certain standards and is given adequate treatment before
being put into public supply. The second is to improve rivers or surface waters
used as sources of drinking water. Sources of surface water for abstraction of
drinking water were classified into three categories corresponding to the treatment
needed - simple physical, physical and chemical, intensive disinfection. Annex
II laid down mandatory values for a whole list of substances - or parameters,
of surface water. There were 46 'parameters', including temperature, BOd, nitrates,
lead and feacal coliforms.
is developed from this Directive. It lays down some 62 quality standards and guidelines
for monitoring water intended for drinking or for use in food. Annex 1 lists the
Guide Levels, Maximum Acceptable Concentrations (MACs) or Minimum Required Concentrations
for each of the parameters. The parameters are divided into six categories: organoleptic
(colour, smell taste), physiochemical (pH conductivity), undesirable substances
(nitrates), toxic substances (lead, pesticides), microbiological (coliforms) and
sets a framework for the elimination or reduction of pollution by particularly
dangerous substances of "controlled" waters - lakes, rivers, ponds, groundwater
and territorial seas. Daughter Directives have set standards for particular substances.
The Directive also interprets various International Conventions. Annex I has two
lists of groups of substances. Member States have to take steps to 'eliminate'
List I substances, popularly known as the "Black List". This includes 129 compounds
such as organohalogen, organophosphorus compounds, carcinogenic substances and
mercury and cadmium compounds. List II substances include less dangerous compounds,
and is popularly known as the "Grey List". It includes zinc, copper, lead compounds,
cyanide and ammonia. Members States have to establish pollution control programmes
with deadlines for implementing controls.
There is a continuous
debate about whether control is based on the "Best Available Technologies" (BAT)
or on the respect of quality standards. BAT supporters claim that cost elements
an be built into the choice BAT and that only this approach conforms to the Precautionary
Principle (see International Law). Opposers claim that the Precautionary Principle
con only be respected by quality standards. Most of the Directives compromise
the two positions. The UK voted against proposals in 1976 to set limit values
for emission standards of List I substances. The compromise of the future will
be that A BAT system should prevail in the absence of an Environmental Quality
Standard laid down either by the European Council or of equivalent World Health
Organisation (WHO) guidelines.
A new emphasis
is being given to pollution from diffuse sources. "Diffuse sources" means from
agriculture (e.g. fertilisers, pesticides), municipal waste water, and human activities
like tourism and traffic. The Nitrates and Municipal Water Directives, Ecological
Quality Directive, amended Drinking Water Directive and possible Ground Water
Directive recognise that it is not only industry that pollutes water. Increasingly,
there are other laws on chemicals that deal with chemicals with a diffuse origin.
Commission will prioritorise chemicals, according to risks they pose to the environment.
The basic reference has been and remains Directive 76/464. The lists were drawn
up from production and usage data. Priority moved to toxicity, persistence and
bioaccumulation. The Commission is now looking to extend the list to about 180
chemicals, and ranking them on the basis of exposure and effects, rather than
left Member States the responsibility for fixing quality standards only for List
II substances, including heavy metals, while the Council retained the responsibility
to fix standards for List I substances. The IPPC Directive refers to a single
list including all List I substances and the heavy metals.
The BAT supporters and those who believe that substances reach waters as complex
mixtures oppose standard setting using risk assessment on a substance by substance
Environmental Action Programme
Since the beginning
of the 1990s, the emphasis has been on enforcement of existing law, rather than
creating more, and using other instruments such as tax or voluntary agreements
- like environmental management and eco-labelling schemes. These are ways of involving
more stakeholders and complement rather than substitute existing law. The eco-labelling
scheme is probably best forgotten.
The EU is the largest
trading bloc in the world with 340 million inhabitants. It is in a critical position
to take the lead in moving towards sustainable development. The EU considers it
has a responsibility to take urgent action and that to achieve sustainable development
will demand practical and political commitment over a long period of time.
The EU recognises
that environmental policy will impact on the costs to business, but considers
it is a precondition of industrial expansion. The EU believes the two objectives
of consolidating industrial competitiveness and achieving a high level of protection
of the environment should be mutually supportative.
These views are
incorporated in the Fifth Environmental Action Programme. The latest Action Programme
promotes more effective integration of environmental policy into the wider policy
agenda, and seeks to put sustainable development at the top of the political agenda.
Reforms include better preparation of measures, improved consultation, better
practical follow-up to legal measures and stricter compliance checking and enforcement.
The Fifth Environmental
Action Programme also proposes the development of a number of dialogue groups
to assist in the design of future environmental policy. The Programme uses a consultative
forum for debate and exchange of information between industrial sectors, regional
and local authorities, trade unions, professional bodies, environmental groups
and consumer organisations with the relevant officers in the Commission. It also
uses an implementation network to help practical application of EU measures, with
a policy review group to develop mutual understanding between the EU and Member
are planned to promote industrial competitiveness. These change the emphasis from
a reactive to a proactive stance, based round the adoption of clean technologies
and the development of environmentally sound products. The two key instruments
are the environmental management systems and the eco-labelling scheme. These are
complemented by greater public access to environmental information and the application
of levies, incentives and civil liabilities to channel people towards sustainable
A sign of the importance
of involving more people in taking responsibility for environmental protection
is the recommendation that member states draw up education policies that enable
students gain a basic knowledge of ecology and learn to reason in terms of systems.
The intent of the
increased transparency and consultation is to enable business to take its full
part in the practical implementation of environmental policy. The American Chamber
of Commerce produces the most comprehensive guide for industry. Industry can see
and have a say in what is required. Companies can then take advantage of the future
possibilities. The delay between the release of EU law and its subsequent implementation
by Member States gives vital playing time for those companies who want to exploit
the opportunities which are generated.
Since the Maastricht
treaty, the process of adopting EU law has changed. Previously most items were
adopted under the 'consultation' procedure, which requires unanimous voting by
the Council of Ministers. MEPs are consulted, but their views can be ignored.
Now the standard is the 'co-operation' procedure. This gives the parliament greater
influence through a second reading and measures are adopted by qualified voting.
If the parliament rejects, it still can be adopted by the Council, but only with
a unanimous vote. There is also a 'co-decision' procedure that extends parliament's
powers to block Council proposals. But it gets complicated after that.
The review of the
Fifth Action Programme in 1996 concluded that some targets would not be met and
that stronger measures are needed to tackle: climate change and acidification;
urban issues, including air quality, noise and waste; and ground and surface water
quality. Least progress was seen in agriculture, tourism and transport, although
more has been made in the industry sector, particularly through regulation!
EU environmental law, including nuclear safety and civil protection, within the
jurisdiction of DG X1, have fallen in the last few years. In 1992 there were 587
infringements, 359 in 1994 and 265 in 1995. The UK was responsible for 57 infringements
in 1994 down to 265 in 1995. The UK has the third best record on implementing
EU environmental law, giving effect to 95% of the Directives.
Future EU Directives
in process are on solvent emissions, and scrapped vehicles. There are proposals
to amend the Directive on Environmental Assessment. Six future EU discussions
are planned, relating to the recycling industry, noise policy, voluntary agreements
in industry, the use of economic instruments in environmental regulation, and
implementation of Environmental law.
A draft Convention
was produced in 1995 by the 34 nation Council of Europe which would require members
states to protect the environment through criminal law sanctions, and corporations
would be held responsible for environmental crimes.
New EU directions
require employers to look more at the environmental impacts of the products they
make. It is called Product Stewardship.
Directive 94/62/EC requires member states to valorise between
50% and 65% of their packaging by the middle of 2001. "Valorise"
means to reuse, recycle or incinerate with energy recovery.
It requires at least 25% of packaging to be recycled, including
a minimum of 15% in each material sector.
first law introduced into the UK under this principle is:
'Producer Responsibility Obligations
(Packaging Waste) Regulations 1997'.
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