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Chapter 19: Corporate Environmental Liability within the European Union
Catherine Wijnants Introduction The Sixth Environment Action Programme defines the priorities and objectives of the European Union’s environmental policy up to 2010 (European Community, 2002). It recognises that legislation remains central to meeting environmental challenges. A few weeks later, the Prestige oil tanker disaster, which, in November 2002, caused serious pollution along the Spanish and French Atlantic coast, confirmed that environmental liability is an issue of utmost importance. The Sixth Environment Action Programme also aims at promoting collaboration and partnership with enterprises with a view to improving the environmental performance of enterprises. In Europe, the debate is currently growing over how corporate accountability to various stakeholders (as well as shareholders) can be increased. The next section examines the substantive grounds for environmental corporate liability in Europe with the directive on environmental liability discussed in some detail.1 Contemporary initiatives regarding criminal liability will be reviewed in the subsequent section. The penultimate section considers the implications of these developments for corporate social responsibility within the EU. The final section concludes. Substantive grounds for environmental liability at the EU level The environmental liability directive2 Background and justification for an EC environmental liability regime On 23 January 2002, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a directive on environmental liability addressing both prevention and restoration of environmental damage.3 The Commission then submitted this proposal to the European Parliament and to the Council of the European Union with a view to the adoption of a comprehensive Community scheme. The purpose of this proposal, which is...
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