Mapping the conditions for environmental improvement measures in a European context

Swedish Environmental Legislation


Swedish environmental law has developed out of general principles of civil law. It was not until Swedish industrialisation in the late 19th century that the first “real” environmental legislation started to emerge.

The development of environmental legislation in Sweden was to a large extent driven by the new challenges that society was facing due to industrialisation. A major consolidation and reform of the environment legal framework in Sweden took place in 1999 when the Environmental Code entered into force, replacing fifteen previous environmental acts.

The aim of this reform was to reduce the number of acts dating from various eras which made the environmental legislation complex and fragmented, and therefore harder to enforce.

Sweden’s membership in the European Community in 1995 also necessitated a review of the legal framework structure. 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.

Its provisions concern, amongst other, management of land and water, nature conservation, protection of flora and fauna, environmentally hazardous activities, water operations, genetic engineering, chemical products and waste management.

Consequently, the Environmental Code has a broad scope. Apart from material provisions, the Environmental Code also sets out the basic framework for implementing environmental protection through its provisions on procedure, supervision, sanctions as well as provisions on compensation and environmental damages. This includes provisions which set out a permit regime for environmentally hazardous activities as well as for water operations. Many activities and operations are subject to permit, and may not commence until a permit has been issued by the competent authority. The permit for environmentally hazardous activities and/or water operations sets out the scope for the activity concerned. It must also state the conditions under which the activity may be carried out.


The purpose of the Code is to promote sustainable development

which will assure a healthy and sound environment for present and future

generations. It states furthermore that the Code shall be applied so as to

ensure that:

Human health and the environment are protected against damage and

nuisance, whether caused by pollutants or other impacts;

Valuable natural and cultural environments are protected and preserved;

Biological diversity is preserved;

The use of land, water and the physical environment in other respects

is such as to secure a long term good management in ecological, social,

cultural and economic terms; and

Reuse and recycling, as well as other management of materials, raw materials

and energy are encouraged with a view to establishing and maintaining

natural cycles.

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