European Union Legislation
Most European environmental legislation is in the form of 'Directives',
which allow member states fexibility in the way that these are incorporated
into national law.
Sixth Environmental Action Programme establishes the way ahead
for European environmental policy in the run-up to 2010. One of
the four priority areas addressed is the objective to 'protect and
restore the functionality of natural systems and halt the loss of
biodiversity in the EU and globally and to protect soils against
erosion and pollution'.
Environmental Liability Directive
The environmental Liability Directive (2004/35/EC) entered into
force on the 30th April 2004. Member states have 3 years to implement
the directive into National law. The Directive is based on the “Polluter
Pays” principle and has two distinct but complementary liability
• The first is that operators that conduct risky activities
will be liable for damage to the environment, encompassing water
(covered by the 2000 Water
Framework Directive), land and air pollution.
• The second liability regime applies to operators who cause
damage to protected species and natural habitats protected at EU
level under the 1992 Habitat and 1979 Birds Directives.
(Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation
of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora) complements the
EU Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds and covers species
other than birds. Habitats and species of 'community interest' are
identified, and these must be maintained at 'favourable conservation
status', as specified by particular criteria. The mechanism for
protection is through designation of Special Areas of Conservation
(SACs), both for habitats and certain species.
Wild Birds Directive
(Council Directive 79/409/EEC of 2 April 1979 on the conservation
of wild birds) is designed to protect wild birds, and to provide
sufficient diversity of habitats for all species in order to maintain
populations. It lists birds of special conservation concern requiring
special conservation measures, and includes selection of areas most
suitable for them to be designated as Special Protection Areas (SPAs).
Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas
(SPAs) together form a network of protected sites across the EU
2000, which emerged from the Habitats and Wild Birds Directives.
These Directives are implemented in the UK by the Conservation (Natural
Habitats etc.) Regulations, 1992. For more information see UK
Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural
Was signed by the UK in 1979 and aims to conserve wild flora and
fauna and their habitats, promote co-operation between countries,
and emphasises endangered and vulnerable species listed in a series
of appendices. Article 2 requires parties to maintain or promote
populations to levels that correspond with ecological, scientific
and cultural requirements. Article 6 prohibits deliberate capture,
keeping, killing or disturbance of Appendix II species, trade in
dead or live Appendix II animals or their derivatives, deliberate
damage or destruction of breeding or resting sites of Appendix II
species, with the exception of 'incidental' damage caused by the
owner or occupier.
Water Framework Directive (2000) sets out the framework for
European water policy. The objective has been is to achieve “good
status” of marine and river water by 2015 by encouraging good
water management and the reduction of 32 dangerous chemicals to
within acceptable levels.
Nitrates Directive (1991) sets out policy for reducing nitrous
compounds in water systems that may contribute to reduction in biodiversity
caused by eutrophication and have a negative impact on human health.
Groundwater Directive (2003) ensures that ground water quality
is monitored and evaluated across Europe in a harmonised way.
Regulation No 1590 establishes a Community programme on the
conservation, characterisation, collection and utilisation of genetic
resources in agriculture and repeals Regulation (EC) No 1467/94.
Regulation 2152/2003 concerns the monitoring of forests and
environmental interactions in the Community (Forest Focus).
Directive 92/43/EEC focuses on the conservation of natural habitats
and wild fauna and flora.
Waters 79/923/EEC protects the quality of coastal and brackish
waters designated for protection or improvement to support particular
Photo Credit: Peter Wakely/English Nature