What is ELD and does it work?
EU has a common framework to address cases of environmental damage. It is the Environmental Liability Directive (ELD), which aims to prevent and remedy water, soil and biodiversity damage to a reasonable cost for society.
Is it working? Well, only partially as the J&E studies show. EU member states transposed ELD with a delay, some better than other and there is still little experience with its application. And there are different issues in each EU country, which weaken this valuable legal instrument.
For example our colleagues in Estonia have run into a conflict between different legal regimes of environmental liability – established national and EU one. As a result competencies were poorly defined in a Harku sea pollution case and remediation of damage to marine ecosystems lagged behind. In February 2014, mazut pollution was discovered on several kilometers of coast in Muraste, Harku municipality. After the municipal authority cleaned up the coast as suggested by the Rescue Board, it presented the government with a „bill“ for the costs, but got turned down.
The central government indicated that compensation for damage is to be claimed from the owner of the Russian ship, which caused the damage by bunker oil spill. Therefore in this case the Bunker Oil Convention (2001) applied, instead of the ELD system. Had the incident fallen under the ELD regime or if the ELD contained a subsidiary obligation, the competent authorities would have been responsible to take preventive and remediation measures in cases the polluter can not be held liable.
Estonia has approximately 3800 km of a coastal line, thus the risk of coastal pollution from passing ships is high. It is not fair to put the burden on the coastal local governments to clean up and bear uncertainty of recovering related cost. Benefits of ELD for people and nature of EU: Having the common framework for handling environmental damages acrross the EU can be of a great value to the people and natural capital of the European Union. EC considers ELD to be a crucial instrument for better efficiency and use of European resources. What is so good about the ELD:
It is built on the “polluter pays principle”, which implies that those responsible for pollution are to be held liable for the damage done to the natural environment;
It introduced the „environmental liability“ as a new concept in several EU countries;
The ELD prioritizes restoration of original condition of damaged natural habitat to monetary compensation;
It gives a voice to the public - affected persons and environmental NGOs have the right to request appropriate action.
Therefore the J&E network helped with transposition of ELD into our different national systems, we monitored national ELD legislation and practice. We also keep promoting involvement of people and NGOs and to this end we motivate civil society to use ELD, test it and fight for its improvement. We want ELD to really work!