Environmental law in the European Union

June 13, 2023

The environment is at the heart of decision-making in the European Union (EU). The EU's environmental policy is based on 4 principles:

  • Precaution
  • Prevention
  • Correction of environmental damage
  • Polluter pays

The main EU chemical regulations, such as REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals) or CLP (Classification, Labellings, Packaging), often include an environmental aspect, even if their scope is much broader. Regulations and directives aimed specifically at protecting the environment form the core of European environmental law.

These laws are regularly amended to comply with European environmental objectives. The "Green Deal" is part of the strategy towards inclusive and sustainable green growth, while integrating climate and environmental objectives into the Union's policies.

EU program on environmental objectives

The European Green Deal

Adopted in 2020 by the European Commission, the Green Deal is a strategy for overcoming environmental challenges. Its aim is to transform the EU into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy, while ensuring :

  • zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050;
  • economic growth decoupled from resource use;
  • no one and no place is left behind.

All economic sectors, including transport, energy, agriculture, construction and industries such as steel, cement, ICT, textiles and chemicals, are covered by the European Green Deal.

General legislation with an impact on the environment

  • Annex XIV of REACH Regulation (EU) n°1907/2006

This annex of the REACH regulation regulates substances of very high concern (SVHC) subject to authorization, in order to control their impact on the environment. An authorization application is required to use a substance regulated by REACH Annex XIV on the European market.

  • Annex XVII of REACH Regulation (EU) n°1907/2006

The substances on this list (on their own, in a mixture or in an article) are subject to restrictions. The inclusion of a substance on the list may be justified by its impact on the environment.  

  • CLP Regulation (EU) n°1272/2008

Following inclusion in Part 3 of Annex VI of the CLP Regulation, all manufacturers, importers and downstream users must classify the substance in accordance with Annex VI. Hazard classes not included in Annex VI must be self-classified and labelled accordingly. Classifications may be linked to environmental impacts (e.g. the aquatic environment and/or the ozone layer).

  • Biocidal products regulation (EU) n°528/2012

This regulation aims to improve the operation of the biocidal products market in the EU, while guaranteeing a high level of protection for man and the environment. In particular, the protection of animal life is explicitly mentioned. 

Environmental legislation

Environmental Liability Directive (2004/35/EC)

This directive establishes rules based on the "polluter pays" principle: a company that causes damage to the environment is considered to be responsible, and must take the necessary preventive or remedial measures (as well as bearing all related costs).

Battery Directive (2006/66/EC)

The directive applies to all types of batteries, with the exception of those used in security equipment or for military purposes, as well as equipment intended to be sent into space.

At the end of 2020, the European Commission proposed a new battery regulation (with annexes) to replace the above-mentioned directive. The objectives would be to ensure the durability and safety of batteries - placed on the EU market - throughout their life cycle. This modernization is in line with the ambition of zero pollution as part of the circular economy objectives of the European Green Deal.

Directive on Industrial Emissions (Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control) (IED) (2010/75/EU)

This is the main instrument regulating pollutant emissions from industrial plants in the European Union.

The aim is to reduce harmful industrial emissions through an integrated approach, using best available techniques, flexibility, inspections and public participation.

ODS 1005/2009/EC  

Regulation ODS 1005/2009/EC forms the legal basis for the protection of the ozone layer at EU level. It therefore imposes a number of restrictions aimed at minimizing the use (and hence emissions) of ozone-depleting substances. On a global scale, this legislation aims to meet the European Union's obligations under the Montreal Protocol. This involves the accelerated phase-out of hydrochlorofluorocarbons, while taking due account of the risks associated with the gradual introduction of alternatives that aggravate global warming.

POPs (2019/1021)

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are organic substances that :

  • persist in the environment
  • accumulate in living organisms
  • pose a risk to our health and the environment

These regulations, designed to implement the Stockholm Convention, include restrictions and bans on substances identified as POPs. 

RoHS (2011/65/UE)

The RoHS directive aims to prevent risks to human health and the environment associated with the management of electronic and electrical waste. To this end, it restricts the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (EEE), which can be replaced by safer alternatives.

Waste management 

In Europe, the two main texts regulating waste management are :

  • Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste as amended by Directive (EU) No. 2015/720 of 29/04/15 and Directive (EU) No. 2018/852 of 30/05/18 ;
  • Directive 2008/98/EC on waste amended by Directive (EU) No. 2018/851 on 30/05/18.

Due diligence

The European Commission made a proposal concerning due diligence rules in February 2022.

The EU proposal on corporate responsibility would require large companies based in member states (or with significant sales in the EU) to identify, prevent and mitigate human rights and environmental violations throughout their value chain.

Once the directive has been formally adopted (2024 at the earliest), member states will have two years to transpose it into national law.

Want to know more about environmental law?

As a company specializing in REACH, CLP, etc. regulations, EcoMundo can help you comply with the regulations that affect you. These numerous regulations also have an economic impact on you. EcoMundo helps you anticipate regulations and minimize their impact on your business. 

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact one of our experts, free of charge and with no obligation!

Encore +

Articles similaires

Risk Management

ESPR regulations for product durability: new requirements to anticipate

The Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) is a European Union (EU) law designed to promote the sustainability of products by integrating environmental criteria right from the design phase.
Substance Traceability

Ban on the intentional use of mercury in the European Union

A provisional political agreement has been reached between the European Parliament and the Council on the proposed revision of the regulation on mercury in dental amalgams and other products.

Approval of the substance "Trihydrogen pentapotassium di(peroxomonosulfate) di(sulfate)": Major Impact on the Biocides Industry

Upcoming approval of Trihydrogen pentapotassium di(peroxomonosulfate) di(sulfate): Impact on the biocides industry. Learn how EcoMundo can assist you in this process.