Scientists at the University of Applied Science in Bingen, Germany Develop Guidelines for Industrial Companies on Environmental Liability and Biodiversity

The project concentrates on the practical implementation of the Environmental Liability Directive –ELD (2004/35/CE) and its impact on companies. Germany transposed the ELD at a federal level, under the Environmental Damage Act (Umweltschadensgesetz) in 2007. The aim of this directive is to prevent and remedy damage to land, water and biodiversity.

The lynx is on the list of protected species. The
Environmental Damage Act protects its habitat.
Photo: © University of Applied Sciences Bingen,
Ludger Nuphaus

Professor Dr. Gerhard Roller suggests that the ELD will "increase the liability of companies for damage of natural assets, no matter how much the operator is guilty of any misconduct”. In the course of the project it is planned to develop a guideline for companies of different industry sectors to assess their liability risk.

At the end of May 2011 the research project was presented at a workshop in Bingen and discussed with participants. Representatives from enterprises, associations and government agencies shared their experiences, since the implementation of the Environmental Damage Act in 2007. Although the forum provided many suggestions and ideas for the guidelines; Professor Dr. Elke Hietel, commented that there still remains uncertainty in the practical implementation of the law. It is still unclear which industrial sectors are affected by the ELD and how to clearly define and thus record environmental damage. Even more so the difficulty lies in how to measure the liability risk for different industries.

Professor Dr. Roller continued to explain the significance of the Environmental Damage Act. He explained that in the case of an excavator, who had to level the ground on a biological rich site, which contained an ecosystem comprising of a pond and all its surrounding niches, and which was not originally shown on the construction plan, he needed to be extra cautious. This is because if the biotope was protected by the Environmental Damage Act and this got damaged, or even worse, destroyed he may be held liable for the damage. According to the law anyone who damages protected habitats and species, on the basis of his profession will be held responsible and has a legal liability to pay compensation.

"Therefore we would like to prevent such damages by creating a guideline for companies”, says Mr. Roller. The aim of the research project is therefore to accomplish a better implementation of the Environmental Damage Act and to make a contribution to preserve our environment.

The research project is funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture State of Rhineland-Palatinate with a term of one and a half years. Under the direction of landscape ecologist Professor Dr. Elke Hietel and environmental lawyer, the project will be carried out at the institute IESAR.

Institute for Environmental Studies and Applied Research (IESAR)
Prof. Dr. Elke Hietel, FH Bingen, phone: + 49 (0) 6721 409 239
Prof. Dr. Gerhard Roller, FH Bingen, phone: + 49 (0) 6721 409 363
Andrea Eberlein, FH Bingen, phone: + 49 (0) 6721 919 315

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