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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Poland

Poland’s constitution contains provisions for environmental protection. For example, Article 74 reads:

  • Public authorities shall pursue policies ensuring the ecological security of current and future generations.
  • Protection of the environment shall be the duty of public authorities.
  • Everyone shall have the right to be informed of the quality of the environment and its protection.
  • Public authorities shall support the activities of citizens to protect and improve the quality of the environment
  • Featured Legislation

    2001: The Act on the Protection of the Environment (Environmental Protection Law) was passed. This Act lays down the general principles of environment protection in Poland, creating a framework for administration, planning and decision-making at the national level, and regulates various matters related to environment protection, in particular the principles of the establishment of:

    (a) the conditions for the protection of environmental resources

    (b) the conditions for the release of substances or energies into the environment

    (c) the costs of the use of the environment

    2001: The Water Law was signed. The Law creates a framework for the sustainable development of water resources. The Law is composed of ten Chapters:

    General provisions (1)

    Use of water (2)

    Water protection (3)

    Water building (4)

    Prevention from flood and drought (5)

    Management of water resources (6)

    Water companies (7)

    Liability for damages (8)

    Penal provisions (9)

    Final provisions (10)

    The aims of the management of water resources include: supply of appropriate quantity and quality of water for the population; prevention of water resources from pollution and wrong exploitation; management and improvement of water ecosystems; prevention from flood and drought; supply of water for agriculture, industry, tourism, sports and recreation; and the creation of conditions for the use of water in electric industry, transport and fishery.

    2004: The Act on the Protection of Nature was approved. The present Act specifies the aims, principles and forms of conservation of living and non-living nature and landscapes. Nature conservation is defined as the sustainable use and restoration of natural resources: wild plants, animals and mushrooms; plants, animals and mushrooms included in species conservation; nomadic animals; nature homes; rare and protected species of plants, animals and mushrooms; formations of living and non-living nature, and digging remains of plants and animals; landscape; greenery in cities and villages; and wooded areas.

    2007: The Act on the Prevention of Damage to the Environment and its Remediation was approved. According to the legislation, companies that pollute the air are obliged to pay compensation for use of the environment. Compensation rates are set out in environmental law. Under the Act, the polluter must remediate damage caused to the environment (including water).

    2011: The Act on the System of Trading in Greenhouse Gas Emission Allowances was introduced. The Act establishes principles of functioning of the trading greenhouse gas emission privileges system. The aim of the system is to limit emissions in a more profitable and economically effective way. The system applies to greenhouse gas emissions from installations included in the system and to aircrafts.

    2012: The Act on Waste was ratified.  The Polish law on waste is one of the branches of environmental protection law. It is currently a branch extensively developed by the Polish legislator, which is the result of the EU and international obligations of Poland in this field.

    Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

    • Denis Solodov and Elżbieta Zębek’s 2020 publication conducts an environmental scan of environmental criminal law in Poland, measuring the efficacy of said legislation. The authors argue that the changes introduced by the Council Directive 2008/99/EC on the protection of the environment through criminal law created Member States’ criminal law, promoting broader criminalization of environmentally harmful behavior and more severe sanctions. Poland uses a continental model of criminal procedure including their rules on evidence. However, current law enforcement challenges vis-a-vis  enforceability, evidentiary thresholds and data collection are of growing concern. While all citizens have the right to effective protection of nature according to the Polish General Directorate for Environmental Protection, the government wants more coordination between law enforcement and the judiciary, raising the level of awareness and knowledge of the judicial and law enforcement authorities of nature protection. New campaigns have been launched to improve cooperation between the two, especially when it comes to law enforcement personnel referring the judgements to judicial authorities.

    References and Further Reading


    Ministry of Climate and Environment: info@klimat.gov.pl