Today, IMPEL published the results of a study carried out assessing the challenges faced by environmental authorities to effectively implement environmental law. As in the previous survey from 2014, the lack of overall staff resources and suitably qualified personnel in regulatory authorities continues to be the most commonly-reported barrier to achieving effective implementation of environmental law. Insufficient monitoring and a prioritisation of conflicting interests are also mentioned to hamper compliance assurance, especially with regard to the local administrative level and nature protection considerations.
Other areas that emerged in 2014, including – lack of skills at municipal level, insufficient data, evidence and information; and inadequate sanctions and low level of fines – continue to be problematic:
- Regulation of (intensive) agriculture
- Definition and classification of waste
- Clarity of environmental permits
- Operator self-monitoring
- Tackling environmental crimes
- Reducing nuisance, conflicts and complaints
- Unclear, incomplete or overly complex legislation
- Access to environmental information
“The results clearly show the struggles of our members in order to reach environmental compliance. Within its possibilities, IMPEL will continue and strive to further improve its support to the network by developing tools and methods for the practitioners, fostering the sharing of best practices and aiming to improve the enforceability and practicability of the regulations’ said Chris Dijkens, Chair of IMPEL.
Implications for IMPEL’s work
It is clear from this survey that IMPEL’s member organisations continue to face many significant challenges in implementing environmental law in their countries. Areas for particular further consideration in IMPEL’s ways of working are:
- Helping organisations to develop more efficient and effective ways of working, for example, by using modern surveillance technologies, risk-based approaches for targeting of resources and improved vocational training.
- Improving the level of engagement with local authorities, for example, through IMPEL’s connections with Regional authorities and through national and European networks that represent local authorities. Supporting countries and organisations in developing compliance assurance strategies that will help to guide regulatory decision-making, achieve more integrated responses and inform regulated businesses.
- Improving the dissemination and uptake of IMPEL’s work and encouraging more active feedback from practitioners on their experiences in using IMPEL’s outputs.
The report provides 28 recommendations for future actions for further consideration by IMPEL.
In 2014, IMPEL carried out the first questionnaire survey involving its member organisations to investigate the challenges that authorities were facing in the practical implementation of environmental law in their countries and how IMPEL might support them in overcoming these challenges. This survey was followed up in 2015 with further analysis to help inform decisions on priorities for IMPEL’s work programme across its five Expert Teams.
The European Commission also recognised the need for a better compliance with EU environmental legislation. Improving the implementation of environmental law is a priority theme of the 7th (current) Environment Action Programme of the European Union.
Earlier this year the Commission launched an Action Plan to help Member States improve the application of EU environmental laws. Poor implementation is linked with persistent problems such as water pollution, poor urban air quality, unsatisfactory waste treatment, and species and habitats in decline. The Action Plan set out nine actions to strengthen compliance assurance mechanisms.
- IMPEL Report: ‘Survey on practitioners’ views about the implementation challenges with EU environmental legislation, their underlying reasons and ways to improvement (2017)’
- IMPEL’s Implementation challenge project series
- IMPEL press release in PDF
- EU Actions on Environmental Compliance Assurance
- German Research Project “Umweltvollzugsdialog” (study for a better enforcement of environmental law, project report in German, English summary available)