Michael Kitt, a Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government minister, told a meeting last Thursday (March 26) of the European Union Common Forum on Contaminated Land at that member states had to use “creative thinking” to tackle environmental problems.

He said: “Cooperation and sharing of both knowledge and experience is a key aspect of this.”

He noted Ireland’s level of contaminated land sites was lower than other countries but told delegates meeting at Dublin Castle a “framework” for dealing with polluted sites was “important” and the EU had a common goal to build a “sustainable future”.

The junior minister referred to the European Union Environmental Liability Directive (ELD) – a set of regulations aimed at tackling pollution by targeting the polluter – due to come into effect in Ireland on April 1 next year (2010).

He voiced hope the regulations would give “real form and substance to the polluter pays principle”, resulting in a “higher degree of environmental protection” and minimising the need for enforcement.

But Ireland has found itself in hot water with the European Commission over enacting the ELD.

The deadline for member states to transpose the EU directive into domestic law was April 30, 2007.

Nine states, including the UK and Ireland, failed to meet the deadline and last year the commission referred them to the European Court of Justice.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said in June last year (2008): “The Environmental Liability Directive implements the polluter-pays principle and is one of the most significant new pieces of EU environmental law of the last few years.

“More than a year after the deadline it is high time these nine Member States transposed it.”

The directive sets out a legal framework for environmental liability based on the polluter-pays principle aimed at making those who cause pollution clean up or prevent it in the first place.

David Gibbs

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie