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S&Ds call for EU to step up the fight against environmental damage and ecocide


19 May 2021


Climate & Environment

The S&D Group in the European Parliament is pushing for an overhaul of the rules on holding polluters to account in a bid to step up the fight against environmental damage and ecocide.

With the support of a progressive majority in the European Parliament, a report on Liability of companies for environmental damage will call for a long overdue modernisation of outdated EU environmental liability rules. The debate on the report takes place later today, with the final vote taking place on Thursday morning.

By revising the Environmental Liability Directive and the Environmental Crimes Directive, the S&D Group wants to see harmonised rules being introduced that focus on preventing environmental damage, reducing risks and strengthening the ‘polluter pays’ principle throughout the EU.

Franco Roberti MEP, S&D negotiator on environmental liability, said:

“To match our ambitions in the European Green Deal, we need to update the EU’s 20-year old environmental liability rules or we risk falling behind in our duty to protect the planet. The current patchwork of laws across Europe has resulted in different liability regimes and an unfair playing field when it comes holding those causing environmental damage to account. We need to punish the polluters, not those upholding their environmental responsibility, which is why we call for revised rules to have a stronger emphasis on the ‘polluter pays’ principle. We cannot let taxpayers foot the bill for environmental damage in case of company insolvency, so the Commission should look at introducing a mandatory financial security system. Both our scientific knowledge about pollutants and our ambitions to tackle environmental challenges have greatly advanced in recent years and the legislation needs to evolve at the same pace. To make sure all member states are making fair and equal progress on environmental liability, we recommend transforming the current directive into a fully harmonised regulation and setting up an Environmental Liability Directive taskforce to support even implementation and enforcement across the EU. We also need a secondary liability regime for damage to human health and the environment. In reviewing the rules, we also hope the Commission shares our ambition when it comes to ensuring full access to justice and fair compensation for people that have suffered from environmental damage through collective redress mechanisms.”

Tiemo Wölken MEP, S&D spokesperson for legal affairs, said:

“If we are serious in the EU about living up to our ambitious environmental credentials, the EU should be a leader in the global fight against environmental damage and should call for ecocide to be recognised as a punishable international crime. Alongside this historic step, we are determined to see an update of the Environmental Crimes Directive that takes into account new forms and patterns of environmental crimes in the EU and that includes minimum EU rules for classifying environmental damage and polluting as a criminal offence. Environmental damage does not stop at national borders and by clearly and properly classifying all environmental crimes at EU level, we can make sure the right sanctions are applied in the same fair and equal way throughout the entire EU. Earlier this year, MEPs already voted overwhelmingly in favour of making it a legal obligation for businesses to identify and address adverse impacts on workers’ rights, human rights and the environment through binding due diligence. Revising environmental liability rules is another tool in the toolbox to guarantee companies are responsible and held accountable for any harmful actions.”