European Environmental Law

Reviewed by Dr. Elisa Morgera, Lecturer in European Environmental Law, University of Edinburgh.
European environmental law is fast growing, increasingly specialized and significantly influencing the general law of the European Union (EU),[1] as well as having an impact on international and comparative environmental law. There are few monographs providing a complete overview of European environmental law,[2] and the third edition of Jans and Vedder’s manual is certainly to be welcomed by conveners of EU environmental law courses, researchers and students alike. 
The monograph is unrivalled in its in-depth – yet accessible – discussion of the constitutional EU law aspects of European environmental law. The great majority of the book chapters (1 to 7) in fact explore the full range of broad, cross-cutting issues related to European Environmental Law from the perspective of general EU law. The manual starts by delving into the historic, political and legal development of this branch of EU law, and its principles, objectives and policy aspects. Thus, chapter 1 (“The Development of European Environmental Law”) immediately introduces the reader to the flexibility, experimentation and specificities of European environmental law. Chapter 2 is devoted to the “Legal Basis”, focusing on the exquisitely legal questions concerning the limits of the powers of the EU in the area of environment, and on interactions with other policy areas such as the regulation of the market, the Common Agricultural and Transport Policies, taxation, research and development, and energy. Interestingly, the same chapter also explores the legal basis of the external dimension of European environmental law, which is particularly relevant to better understand the EU’s role both in participating in the development of international environmental law, and in supporting its implementation within and outside its borders. Jans and Vedder explain in a succinct, but comprehensive fashion, case law and legislative developments related to questions on implied powers, explicit competences, division of powers between the EU and its Member States, and mixed agreements – a category that applies to the numerous multilateral environmental agreements to which the EU and its Member States are parties.
The following chapter (“Harmonisation”) provides a detailed discussion of the extent and conditions under which Member States can adopt additional or more stringent environmental standards, when the EU has already adopted harmonized standards on a certain environmental subject matter. The chapter thus guides the reader through the intricacies of total and minimum harmonization in European environmental law. The fourth chapter (“Implementation and Enforcement”) explores essentially two related topics: the duty to transpose European environmental legislation into national law and the enforcement of EU environmental law. As to the former, the authors meticulously address a series of complex questions related to the transposition of environmental directives that national legislators of Member States have to face on a regular basis. A relatively shorter section is then allotted to enforcement, providing a bird-eye view of the challenges and evolution of the supervision of Member States’ compliance by the European Commission and the Court of Justice.
Chapter 5 (“Legal Protection”) concentrates in turn on access to justice for individuals who allege infringement of their environmental rights both before national courts of Member States and before EU courts. Greater attention is actually devoted to legal protection before national courts, as the authors examine how the general EU law doctrines of direct effect, consistent interpretation and State liability for damage caused by violating EU law apply in the specific case of European environmental law. Then, questions related to individuals’ access to justice at the European level, particularly actions for annulment of acts of EU institutions, are addressed in the light of the Aarhus Convention,[3] which obliges the EU institutions and Member States to provide access to justice in environmental matters. The following two lengthy chapters explore interactions between environmental protection and the free movement of goods (chapter 6) and competition law (chapter 7). 
As – in the words of the authors of the book under review – “there is European legislation in almost every conceivable field of environmental policy” (p. 223) – the single chapter (chapter 8) devoted to substantial European environmental law cannot be other than schematic in its exhaustive listing of EU legislation on environmental issues. Thus, the concluding chapter of the book strikes the reader as remarkably less sophisticated in its commentary and less reader-friendly than the previous ones. Nonetheless, the chapter is peppered with incisive comments on key aspects of EU secondary legislation and provides a useful classification of the myriad of legislative initiatives undertaken by the EU in the environmental sphere. It starts by looking at horizontal legislation, presenting legal developments related to: environmental impact assessment, integrated pollution prevention and control, environmental governance, integrated product policy, and environmental liability. It then turns to substantive areas of environmental policy: water, air pollution (including ozone layer protection and the fight against climate change), noise, dangerous substances, genetically modified organisms, waste, nuclear safety, and the conservation of nature. In addition, it also discusses the Environmental Action Programmes, the Notification Directive, and the European Environmental Agency. 
The difficulty of cramming into an already extensive monograph a comprehensive overview of secondary legislation of the EU on environmental matters may be inevitably symptomatic of the increasing specialization and expansion of European environmental law, as more than thirty years have been spent developing and refining the environmental law of the EU, learning from the continuous challenges in its implementation.[4] The proliferation of EU environmental legislation is also the result of continuous law-making on environmental protection and sustainable development at the international level[5] – a process through which the EU is particularly keen to leave a distinctive mark. It is thus to be commended that Jans and Vedder carefully list international instruments that influence specific pieces of EU environmental legislation in the last chapter of their monograph. This gives the reader an idea of the magnitude of the cross-fertilization between EU and international environmental law, albeit it does not go beyond scratching the surface of such a complex phenomenon.
Although no general introduction or conclusions are offered by the authors of the book under review about the future directions or overall challenges of European environmental law, several key questions in this respect are highlighted and explored throughout the book. Overall, the perceptive, complete and profound legal analysis of the environmental initiatives of the EU offered by Jans and Vedder will certainly continue to draw the attention not only of those specializing in European environmental law, but also of general EU law experts, and comparative and international environmental lawyers. 
[1] Jans, J. ‘Environmental Spill-overs into General Community Law’ (2008) 31 Fordham International Law Journal 1360.
[2] Besides the book under review, one can cite Kramer, L. EC Environmental Law (Sweet & Maxwell, 2006), and on selective topics of European Environmental Law, Scott, J. EC Environmental Law (Longman, 1998) and Lee, M. EU Environmental Law: Challenges, Change and Decision-making (Hart, 2005).
[3] Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus, 25 June 1998).
[4] According to the 25th Annual Report on Monitoring the Application of Community Law (Commission Communication COM(2008) 777), environmental infringements remain one of the most frequent causes for enforcement actions against Member States.
[5] An average of 300 days per year are spent in multilateral environmental negotiations; see Muñoz, M., Thrasher, R. and Najam, A. ‘Measuring the Negotiation Burden of Multilateral Environmental Agreements’ (2009) 9 Global Environmental Politics 1.

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