Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR)
European section of United Cities and Local Governments

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Climate and energy transition

- 15.12.2003

Environmental liability directive : CEMR urges EP to support Europe's towns and regions
On the eve of the vote on the environmental liability directive at the European parliament (second reading), on Tuesday 16 December 2003, the Council of European Municipalities and Regions has called on MEPs to reject several amendments.
The amendments are :
- 9, 16, 61, which would allow broad exemptions from liability
- 22 and 62, which limits possibilities for developing appropriate financial security regime
- 14, which would require local authorities to prove that the operator is indeed at fault to be able to recover costs
- 18, which limits the possibilities for authorities to recover costs
- 11, 59, 13, 60, which makes authorities ultimately liable if for some reason operators don't remedy damage
CEMR's environment spokesperson, Lucy Swans explains : 'The environmental liability directive presents the opportunity for the European Parliament to ensure that the polluter pays principle is fully enshrined in Community law. Local government has campaigned for a clear, unambiguous liability regime that does not allow broad exemptions to allow polluters to escape cleaning up their damage. In the vast majority of these cases it is the taxpayer who, either wholly or partially, meets the cost of the clean-up."
There are two fundamental principles that must underpin the directive on which CEMR urges the European Parliament to take action:
The polluter must pay
Operators must be responsible for their actions. A liability regime that allows operators to escape liability either fully of partially and let the cost of clean-up fall to the competent authority and ultimately the tax-payer is weak and undermines the need to prevent environmental damage from occurring. The directive should not include broad exemptions. Compliance with a permit or state of the art technology should only be used as mitigating factors when deciding the extent of liability a operator faces. Onus should be placed on the operator to prove that they are not at fault not the opposite.
Mandatory financial security

A comprehensive financial security regime, that requires major and at risk operators to have financial security, is fundamental to helping prevent environmental damage in the future.
Financial security should be mandatory, and applied over a phased period. It is key to the success of the directive in forcing operators to assess and manage risk more effectively.
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