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Environmental liability

The objective of the Environmental Board is to ensure a clean living environment and conservation of biodiversity by remedying environmental damage.

This is regulated by the Environmental Liability Act which is based on the Directive 2004/35/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on environmental liability with regard to the prevention and remedying of environmental damage.

A person whose act or omission has caused or may cause environmental damage is obligated to remedy the damage caused or if damage has not yet been caused, but there is a threat that it will occur, then start to eliminate the threat of damages. Instead of paying monetary compensation, a real remedying of the damages must be organised by the person who caused the damage. A person who caused the damage must remedy the damage caused to the environment, i.e. to restore or replace the damaged environmental component. 

The Environmental Liability Act does not include the environment as a whole. Thus, the term “environmental damage” does not include the damage of any environmental component. For the purposes of the Environmental Liability Act, environmental damage is only damage caused to certain environmental elements (protected habitats and species, individual protected natural object, surface and ground water and soil, etc.) The damage has to be substantial, for example, impact the sustainability and viability of the habitat or species, change of the state of the surface or ground water, etc.

In Estonia, the competent institution is the Environmental Board which identifies environmental damage and threat of damage and the person who caused it. The task of the Environmental Board is to identify liable polluters and ensure that people and companies who have caused environmental damage or threat of damage implement and finance necessary prevention and remedial measures.


Rights of person concerned upon prevention and remedying environmental damage

Each person

who is affected or may be affected by environmental damage (threat);

who has a justified interest in environmental damage proceedings;

whose rights are violated by the environmental damage or a threat of damage;

has the right to address the Environmental Board and to request that the Board take preventive or remedial measures or obligate the person who caused the damage to take preventive or remedial measures.


Notification of environmental damage

A person who caused environmental damage or a threat of damage is obligated, upon occurrence of threat of damage, to start to prevent the occurrence of environmental damage or remedy the occurred environmental damage.

The task of the Environmental Board is to identify environmental damage and threat of damage and the person who caused it and also to assess the necessity and extent of remedial measures.

Therefore, if environmental damage or a threat of damage emerges or a threat of damage remains, the person who caused the damage must immediately notify the Environmental Board (also Health Board, if the health of people is impacted) or the Environmental Inspectorate of all the circumstances relating to the environmental damage or the threat of damage. 


Cleaning of the bathing area lake Viljandi. Photo: Toomas Kalda

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