Companies must pay for their environmental damage, says European Court of Auditors



Published on

Jul 5, 2021

Taxpayers are too often forced to pay to repair environmental damage when responsible companies do not bear the costs, the European Court of Auditors said in a report on Monday.


“Polluters must pay for the environmental damage they cause,” said Viorel Stefan, author of the report. “Until now, however, European taxpayers have all too often been forced to bear the costs that polluters should have paid,” he added.

Experts from the European Court of Auditors examined a sample of 42 environmental clean-up projects, for which the European Union has paid 180 million euros, in order to solve problems such as industrial pollution and contaminated landfills in Italy, in Poland and Portugal.

About a third of that was spent on remedying “orphan pollution”, when contaminated sites were damaged so long ago that the original polluters can no longer be identified. In other cases, the responsible company was insolvent and European taxpayers had to pay.

Although EU law holds companies accountable when they cause “significant” environmental damage, experts consider it necessary to adopt a more precise definition of the damage in question.

Industrial emissions affect many sectors. In the world of fashion and luxury, these relate in particular to the pretreatment or dyeing of fibers or textiles., or the tanning of skins.

The European Commission is due to propose new rules this year that will oblige companies to detect and correct human rights and environmental violations in their supply chains.

French version Lucinda Langlands-Perry, edited by Jean-Stéphane Brosse

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