The European Union is one of the main representative players that committed to the preservation and protection of the environment.
For this reason, we are used to reading and listening to green deal, global warming, food security, renewable energy, circular economy, green energy, green solutions and so on.
European environmental law has a long history, however, the initial European Economic Community (EEC) established with the Treaty of Rome in 1957 did not contain any reference to it.Environmental issues were not deemed as a policy concern in the 1950s.
Only with the first global summit on environmental protection, the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, in 1972, the international community and the EEC acknowledged the need for environmental protection.
The Stockholm Conference is identified as the birth of modern international environmental law.
The origin of this latter was to be linked to a human well-being as also being a crucial element for economic growth.
Years later, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), in 1985, declared that environmental protection had to become one of the EU Community’s core objectives.
However, thanks to the Single European Act, in 1987, an explicit legal basis for an autonomous EEC environmental policy was introduced.
Furthermore, when Spain and Portugal joined the EEC in 1986, Germany and Denmark – countries with higher and well-established environmental standards- insisted on introducing in the Treaty a provision allowing Member States (MSs) to maintain or introduce more stringent environmental protection measures which might be pursued at European level.
Since then, other international summits and conferences have strengthened the concept of creating targeted actions and therefore measures to preserve the environment.
Indeed, in 1992, the United Nation Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro environmental law gained more prominence.
The Maastricht Treaty then in 1993 recognised environmental protection as being on the core objective of the European Community.
By the Treaty of Amsterdam, in force in 1999, it allowed for the inclusion of the “harmonious, balanced and sustainable development of economic activities” and a “high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment” among the goals of the EU.
We need to wait until the Lisbon Treaty with its latest amendments to see climate change singled out as one of the global environmental issues in which the European Union is expected to play a significant role.
EU Environmental law, what exactly?
EU law covers several areas of environmental protection, here following some of them :
– Biodiversity and nature conservation
– Invasive alien species
– Water protection
– Noise pollution
– National emission ceilings
– Climate change
– Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
– Trade and environment
The objective of the EU environmental policy can be broadly defined as:
– Preserving, protecting and improving the quality of the environment;
– Protecting human health;
– Ensuring the prudent and rational utilization of natural resources; and
– Promoting measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems, and in particular combating climate change.
By recognizing this concern at EU level and creating legal measures aimed at solving possible issues, the EU as a whole commits to preserve not only the environment itself but also its citizens and their well-being.
EUROPEAN UNION LAW, Oxford, third edition, Catherine Barnard & Steve Peers
EU Environmental Law, Elgar, 2017, Geert van Calster, Leonie Reins
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