Sweden greens non-environmental laws

Integration of environmental principles to affect road building, forestry, planning law

The Swedish government today proposed writing environmental principles and requirements into more than 50 major non-environmental laws dealing with activities from housing to mining.

Environment minister Anna Lindh described the move as "a very significant step" towards the integration of environmental and other policies. The initiative complements the government's introduction of a package of environmental laws, or environmental code, last year (ENDS Daily 5 December 1997).

Interviewed by ENDS Daily, Ms Lindh said legal experts and environmental groups had criticised the code for not imposing direct requirements on specific activities. "People said: 'You are now introducing an environmental code, but this is only for a small area and all other activities in society will not be affected by environmental standards.'

"We thought it was very important to show that the new environmental standards will be for all of society." The government is proposing that the code's key environmental principles, such as polluter pays and the precautionary principle, should be officially included in the main laws governing activities such as forestry, road building, railways, airports, planning, mining and nuclear safety.

More specific requirements, for increased consultation of the public and interest groups and for meeting environmental quality standards, will also be introduced into certain laws. Planners will also have to consider the ecological capacity of areas before taking decisions.

In practice, the changes are likely to affect some activities more than others. According to Ms Lindh, it will mean significant changes for road building programmes.

The environmental code was already on the statute book before the last general election, which brought Ms Lindh's Social Democrat party to power. But with an election due in September, the minister said that its successful implementation was regarded as an important step towards fulfilling the prime minister's election pledge to make ecological sustainability a top priority. "Some people were really shocked by this [his pledge]. They did not really think he would be a green Prime Minister."

Göran Persson reinforced his pledge at the state opening of parliament last autumn, by vowing to rid Sweden of all its major environmental problems within one generation (ENDS Daily 22 September 1997).

Today's proposed legislative amendments have now been sent to a council of legal experts for scrutiny. They are expected to be submitted to the parliament in March.

Follow Up:
Swedish environment ministry, tel: +46 8 405 1000.

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