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No. 235/06 | Berlin, 20.09.2006

Common standards for the remedying of environmental damage

Cabinet approves draft act on environmental liability

For the first time, common standards are to be established for the remedying of environmental damage that becomes necessary as a result of accidents. The standards are prescribed in a draft act that the Federal Cabinet has approved at the proposal of Federal Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel. Furthermore, environmental associations are to be given the right to have remedial measures imposed by the courts. To date, only private persons have the right to file suit for such action.

The new Environmental Damages Act (Umweltschadensgesetz) will transpose the EU Environmental Liability Directive into German law. The draft Act requires the consent of the German Bundestag.

The draft Act establishes minimum requirements pertaining to the prevention and remedying of significant damage to protected habitats and species and to water bodies and soils. It does not apply to compensation under civil law for damages suffered by individuals, i.e. it does not apply to claims for compensation in cases of damages to personal property and health. In Germany, such claims are adjudicated, inter alia, under the country's existing Environmental Liability Act (Umwelthaftungsgesetz).

Anyone who engages in actions that could significantly impair the environment, for example via accidents, is obligated to prevent relevant damages. The Directive lists relevant activities; they include the operation of chemical plants, the transport of dangerous goods by road and waterways and the use of genetically modified organisms. Where such activities cause environmental damages, the new Act will require the party that caused the damage to remedy the damage.

Expanded liability would apply in cases of significant damages to habitats and species. In such cases, anyone responsible for damage in the course of carrying out activities related to his or her occupation will be liable for relevant remedial measures. Authorities will be charged with monitoring compliance with remedial obligations by parties causing environmental damage.

More Informationen (in German):

  • Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur Umsetzung der Richtlinie des Europäischen Parlaments und des Rates über die Umwelthaftung zur Vermeidung und Sanierung von Umweltschäden
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