The Swedish Environmental Code

The purpose of the Environmental Code is to promote sustainable development. It is applicable to all persons and operators who undertake activities or measures which could impact on the fulfilment of the objectives of the Environmental Code.

The role of legislation

Legislation is the key tool in Sweden with which principles of environmental policy is converted into practical action. The Environmental Code constitutes a framework legislation that consists the general provisions regarding environmental protection. The more specific provisions are to be found in bylaws under the Environmental code.

The purpose and scope of the Environmental Code

The purpose of the Environmental Code is to promote sustainable development which will ensure a healthy and sound environment for present and future generations. To achieve this, the Code is to be applied so that:

  • human health and the environment are protected against damage and detriment, whether caused by pollutants or other impacts
  • valuable natural and cultural environments are protected and preserved
  • biodiversity is preserved
  • the use of land, water and the physical environment in general is such as to secure long-term good management in ecological, social, cultural and economic terms
  • re-use and recycling, as well as other management of materials, raw materials and energy are encouraged so that natural cycles are established and maintained.

The scope of the Environmental Code is directly linked to the promotion of sustainable development. The Code is applicable to all activities or measures that are of significance for this purpose to be achieved. It therefore concerns all types of measures and operations that may be of importance to those interests the Code is intended to protect, regardless of whether they are part of a private individual's daily life or are some form of business activity.

The scope of the Code is also the basis that decides what types of environmental issues can be examined in a court of law.

General rules of consideration

Chapter 2 of the Environmental Code contains a number of general rules of consideration. The most important of them are the precautionary principle, the polluter pays principle, the product choice principle and principles regarding resource management, recycling and suitable localisation of activities and measures.

The rules have a preventive effect since they oblige every operator of an environmentally hazardous activity to assay the environmental effects of its activities. That is before starting up a new activity, as well as continuously as long as the activity is ongoing.

Supervisory and licensing authorities use the general rules of consideration as basis for their decisions. They are mandated to decide on injunctions, bans, permit conditions etc. to assure the fulfillment of the general rules of consideration. As a result, the scope of these rules continuously become much more specific through regulations or decisions in individual cases.

Penalties and sanction charges

Most penalties for environmental crimes are gathered in the Environmental code. In addition to the penalties, there are also sanction charges for more specific acts. The penalties are decided by the supervisory authorities but can be appealed to court. If the operator continues to commit the sanctioned act there is a possibility for the supervisory authority to decide on a sanction charge with an increased amount. The sanction charges are an effective instrument to give a rapid response to infringements of the environmental protection provisions.

Swedish Environmental Law - An introduction to the Swedish legal system for environmental protection

The Swedish Environmental Code (information at Government Offices of Sweden)