Swedish green law reform sent to parliament

Government proposes comprehensive environmental act as "platform for 21st Century"

The Swedish government today capped a recent series of environmental initiatives with the presentation to parliament of an extraordinary "environmental code".

Described as "a platform for 21st-century environmental politics," the legislation specifies higher environmental standards for government and industry, tougher punishments for transgressors, a stronger role for environmental NGOs in policy and planning decisions, broader powers for local authorities on environmental issues, and a continuing process of environmental legislation (ENDS Daily 4 April).

The code presupposes a wholesale reform of Sweden's environmental laws, the environment ministry says. The "polluter pays principle" (PPP) and the standard of "best available technology" (BAT), for example, will be applicable to virtually any field of human activity likely to impinge on the environment. The "substitution" or "production choice" principle will also be enforced.

All enterprises involved in "environmentally hazardous" activities from 30 June 1969 will be held responsible for rectifying any subsequent damage; "remediation insurance" will be compulsory.

Environmental quality standards will be set with a view to pinpointing the highest and lowest permissible levels of relevant substances in soil, water and air on any scale, "from a small watercourse to the entire country". According to the ministry, the measure will generate "an entirely new approach to attacking environmental problems".

If any existing rules or standards prove inadequate to prevent an unacceptable degree of environmental damage, the enterprise in question will simply be stopped. Regional environmental courts will replace existing courts and legal authorities now handling environmental cases.

The government sees the code, which is intended to take effect from 1 January 1999, as the first step in a continuing process of legal reform ending with the establishment of a parliamentary committee to oversee its application and keep it up to date.

Eva-Lena Gustafsson of the environment ministry told ENDS Daily today: "The code takes all these environmental statutes and wraps them up into one big law. Parliament is going to accept this legislation because it has the support of two smaller 'green' parties as well as the government."

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

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