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News article12 May 2022Directorate-General for Environment

Making the polluter pay: Commission seeks views on EU environmental liability laws

Today, the Commission has launched an open public consultation as part of the evaluation of the Environmental Liability Directive (ELD), the EU framework to prevent and remedy damage to land, water and biodiversity based on the ‘polluter pays’ principle. Under the Directive, operators have a legal responsibility to prevent and restore any environmental damage caused by their activities. The public consultation is open for feedback until 4 August 2022.

Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said:

Many polluted sites in Europe remain today without proper cleaning up and further environmental remediation. In many cases, paying to repair the damage is done not by those responsible for it, but from the public purse, including EU funds. The Environmental Liability Directive is an essential law that helps prevent and fully repair ecological damage at the charge of those who have caused it. But we need to make sure the EU rules deliver to their full potential on our zero pollution ambition.

With this consultation, the Commission invites citizens and interested parties to express views on the implementation of the existing framework. This will feed into the evaluation process of the Environmental Liability Directive, which will last for a year. The evaluation of the Directive is a legal requirement and will contribute to the EU’s zero pollution ambition. It aims to improve national compliance with EU pollution prevention laws. The evaluation will take into account:

  • information from Member States (ELD reports)
  • the open public consultation (launched today) and numerous other stakeholder consultation activities
  • the European Parliament resolution of 20 May 2021 on the liability of companies for environmental damage 
  • the European Court of Auditors Special Report 12/2021: The Polluter Pays Principle: Inconsistent application across EU environmental policies and actions of 5 July 2021.
  • the findings of the first evaluation of the Directive of 2016.

Consult documents related to the evaluation of the ELD on the dedicated website.


The Directive on environmental liability aims to establish a framework of environmental liability, based on the ‘polluter pays’ principle, to better prevent and remedy environmental damage. Under the Directive, operators have a legal responsibility to prevent and restore any environmental damage caused by their activities. Such activities include the running of industrial or waste facilities and water abstraction and impoundment. Damage can arise from accidents, incidents or inadequate management. It can also arise from activities such as illegal landfills, illegal logging or illegal peat extraction. Remediation can include, for example, restoration of damaged habitats listed in the Habitats Directive. Making operators financially liable for preventing and remedying environmental damage is intended to induce them to develop practices that minimise the risk that their activities will cause such damage.

More information

Go to the questionnaire

More information on the evaluation

Guidelines on “environmental damage”

Environmental Liability Directive website

Environmental Liability Directive evaluation

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Publication date
12 May 2022
Directorate-General for Environment

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