S.According to the European Court of Auditors, in many cases those who pay dear have to pay for environmental pollution instead of the actual polluter. And this, although the so-called polluter pays principle actually applies in the EU, criticized the auditors in a report published on Monday.
In other words, whoever is responsible for a damage has to pay for him. “So far, however, these costs have been passed on far too often to the European taxpayers,” said Viorel Stefan, the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report.
Agriculture is mentioned as an example, since it is particularly difficult to apply the polluter pays principle to such so-called diffuse sources. Diffuse sources are used when no specific cause of the pollution – e.g. a company – can be identified or when there are numerous small or distributed sources from which pollutants are released.
Damage is estimated to add up to 55 billion euros a year
“In the EU, agricultural pollution from nitrates and pesticides from diffuse sources is the main reason why groundwater does not achieve good chemical status,” it says.
The report mainly focused on the areas of industry, sewage, waste and soil. It is estimated that the damage caused by costs and lost benefits add up to 55 billion euros a year because the requirements of EU environmental law are repeatedly not complied with. “However, there is no comprehensive assessment of the total cost of pollution to society,” the report said.
In the area of wastewater, for example, it is criticized that commercial areas such as agriculture and forestry are responsible for almost 60 percent and the energy supply for almost 20 percent of water consumption. Private households in the EU usually bear most of the costs for water supply and sanitation, even though they only use 10 percent of the water.
It is often not possible to determine the cause of soil pollution
In the case of soil pollution, according to the report, there is an increased risk that the polluters can no longer be identified or that they are insolvent because the pollution occurred a long time ago. More than 42 percent of the remediation measures for polluted soils are reportedly financed from public funds, including EU funds.
Around 60 percent of surface waters, such as rivers and lakes, are not in good ecological status, as the Court of Auditors writes, citing the European Environment Agency. In addition, around 2.8 million locations are potentially contaminated primarily by industry and waste disposal. Air pollution is the greatest environmental health risk.