June 01, 2012

Federalism in European Environmental Decision Making

Europe’s sovereign debt crisis is sparking much debate over the scope and breadth of the decision-making power of the European Union (EU) in the area of finance. Yet, in certain policy areas such as the environment, the EU already functions as a form of federal government. For example, according to the European Environmental Bureau, more than 80 percent of environmental protection laws in the twenty-seven EU nations now arise from decisions made in Brussels, home to the EU lawmaking bodies collectively referred to as the EU institutions. At the same time, the impact of these laws is such that their consequences are felt far beyond EU borders. Given the far-reaching impact of European environmental protection laws—such as the EU emissions trading system or its chemical legislation regime (REACH)—and the EU’s nearly unrestricted authority to legislate in these matters, it is becoming increasingly important for environmental lawyers and compliance professionals to understand the players, powers, and processes that produce these laws and policies.

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