Friday, June 21, 2024

Zero pollution: Commission consults citizens and stakeholders on the “polluter pays” principle

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The European Commission has launched an open public consultation to gather views and evidence from citizens and interested parties on the implementation of the “polluter pays” principle in the EU. The Commission will use the opinions and evidence gathered to evaluate whether EU and national policies are sufficient to ensure that polluters bear the cost of measures to prevent, control, and remedy pollution. This consultation will be open for feedback until 4 August 2023. 

Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said:

The polluter pays principle is fair and simple: it requires polluters to bear the cost of the pollution they cause. Correct application of the principle provides incentives to avoid damaging the environment and makes polluters responsible for cleaning up. When it is not properly applied, the bill for environmental damage caused by polluters too often ends up being paid for by citizens and weighs heavily on public funds. We are inviting everyone to contribute with evidence on how to make this principle work better in the interests of us all.

The consultation will cover aspects such as the use of market-based instruments by the EU and the Member States, indirectly paying the polluter through environmentally harmful subsidies, failing to implement the principle in the context of EU funds, how environmental liabilities are dealt with, and the use of pricing in policies. 

The results of the consultation will be used to prepare a comprehensive policy evaluation, also known as a fitness check, in 2024. This evaluation will serve to prepare a Recommendation on how to better implement the “polluter pays” principle in environmental policies, as announced in the Commission’s Zero Pollution Action Plan, which celebrates its second anniversary today. 

This consultation therefore is a key step towards ensuring that polluters are held accountable for their actions and that the “polluter pays” principle is better implemented for the benefit of the environment and the well-being of Europeans.  


The “polluter pays” principle is enshrined in Article 191(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The principle implies that polluters should pay for the pollution they cause, creating an incentive to avoid damaging the environment at its source and holding polluters accountable. Its effective implementation is essential for effectiveness of environmental policy, economic efficiency, and a fair transition that minimizes social inequalities caused by environmental impacts and policies. 

In 2021, the European Court of Auditors released a report concluding that the “polluter pays” principle is applied to varying degrees in EU environmental policies, with incomplete coverage and implementation. As a result, the Court recommended that the Commission assess ways to strengthen the integration of the principle into environmental legislation. This public consultation is a response to that recommendation, seeking to identify gaps and problems in the implementation of the “polluter pays” principle. 

More information 

Open Public Consultation on the Polluter Pays Principle (EUSurvey) 

ECA Special Report 12/2021: The Polluter Pays Principle: Inconsistent application across EU environmental policies and actions  

Fitness Check on the application of the Polluter Pays Principle to the environment 

Making the polluter pay: Commission seeks views on EU environmental liability laws ( 

Subscribe to the EU Environment newsletter 

Action tracker giving an overview of the flagships and actions taken in the context of the Zero Pollution Action Plan 



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