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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Sweden

Sweden’s constitution contains provisions for the protection of the environment. Article 2, for example, reads: Public power shall be exercised with respect for the equal worth of all and the liberty and dignity of the individual. The personal, economic and cultural welfare of the individual shall be fundamental aims of public activity. In particular, the public institutions shall secure the right to employment, housing and education, and shall promote social care and social security, as well as favorable conditions for good health. The public institutions shall promote sustainable development leading to a good environment for present and future generations. Supplementary provision 4.6.13, on the other hand, reads:

The Committee on Environment and Agriculture shall prepare matters concerning:

  • agriculture, forestry, horticulture, hunting and fishing;
  • meteorological services;
  • nature conservation; and
  • other environmental protection questions not falling to any other committee to prepare.
  • Featured Legislation

    1983: The Water Act was approved. It regulates the management and conservation of water resources in Sweden, to provide for rights relating to the use of water, irrigation, drainage, water supply and projects relating to water, and to make provision for the resolution of disputes relating to water.

    1988: The Swedish Radiation Protection Act was passed. The purpose of this Act is to protect people, animals and the environment against harmful effects of radiation. The Act applies to ionizing radiation as well as non-ionising radiation. Ionizing radiation is defined as radiation of gamma rays and X-rays, particle radiation or any other radiation with similar biological effects. Non-ionising radiation is defined as optical radiation, radio-frequency radiation, low-frequency electric and magnetic fields, ultrasound or other radiation with similar biological effects.

    1998: The Energy Agency was formed, working towards transforming the Swedish energy system into an ecological and economically sustainable system through guiding state capital towards the area of energy.

    1998: The Swedish Environmental Code was adopted and entered into force 1 January 1999. The rules contained within 15 acts have been amalgamated in the Code. As many similar rules in previous statutes have been replaced with common rules, the number of provisions has been reduced. The Environmental Code is nonetheless a major piece of legislation. The Code contains 33 chapters comprising almost 500 sections. However, it is only the fundamental environmental rules that are included in the Environmental Code. More detailed provisions are laid down in ordinances made by the Government. The translation takes account of amendments that have been made since the Code entered into force up to 1 August 2000. References to the laws adopting the amendments are given in parentheses and show the reference number of the law in question. However, laws regulating transitional arrangements or dates of entry into force have not been included. The two annexes specifying the environmental classes of petrol and diesel fuels are not included in the translation. The Ministry of Environment publishes the translation as a service to interested persons but takes no legal responsibility for the translation or for any consequences arising from its use.

    1999: An Act on measures for the prevention and mitigation of major chemical accidents was enacted. The purpose of this Act is to prevent major chemical accidents and to limit damage to the environment. This Act applies to establishments where dangerous substances are present in amounts that equal or exceed the permitted amount legally established. The provisions in this document however do not apply to dangers caused by ionizing radiations, by handling hazardous substances in adherence to Act (1982:821) on transportation of dangerous goods, to transport of dangerous substances in pipelines outside the establishments in accordance with this Act, nor to military activities. The Environmental Act and Code shall regulate the authorization of licenses for undergoing certain activities pertaining to the handling of hazardous substances. The Swedish Rescue Services Agency (municipal supervisory authorities) shall supervise regulations set by this Act. The Municipality Board and the National Rescue Services Board may put forth decisions of appeal to the Environment Court pursuant to Chapter 20, article 2 of the Environmental Code.

    2003: The Commission Regulation (EC) No. 831/2003 prohibiting fishing for deepwater prawn by vessels flying the flag of Sweden was signed. Catches of deepwater prawn in Norwegian waters south of 62° 00′ N by vessels flying the flag of Sweden or registered in Sweden are hereby deemed to have exhausted the quota allocated to Sweden for 2003. Subsequently, fishing for deepwater prawn in Norwegian waters south of 62° 00′ N by vessels flying the flag of Sweden or registered in Sweden is hereby prohibited, as are the retention on board, transhipment and landing of this stock caught by the above vessels after the date of application of this Regulation.

    2011: The Fuel Act was instituted. The Act aims to prevent fuels (petrol, diesel, ethanol) used in motor engines to affect the environment. Manufacturers of these fuels shall ensure that gasoline indicates gasoline’s environmental class with respect to its technical requirements. Fuel suppliers shall take steps for greenhouse gas emissions referred to in article 20 to decrease and that in 2020 no more than 94% originate from fossil fuels in 2010. An administrative authority may appeal to the public administrative court on decisions matters referred to in article 20, section 1 of Administrative Procedure Act.

    2017: The Climate Law was established. This Law contains provisions on the Government’s climate policy work, and specifies what this work should be aimed at and how it should be conducted. The Government shall pursue climate policy that 1. aims to prevent harmful interference in the climate system, 2. helps to protect the ecosystems and present and future generations against harmful effects of climate change, 3. focuses on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses and preserving and creating processes in the environment that counteract climate change and its harmful effects, and 4. is based on a scientific approach and on relevant technical, social, economic and environmental considerations. The Law concerns, among other things, the setting and meeting of emission targets and specific duties of the Government such as yearly budgeting for climate change action, preparing a four-year climate change action plan and submitting such plan to the Parliament. The Law sets out the contents of such a plan.

    2018: Law (2018: 1854) on the international fund for dangerous and harmful substances was promulgated. This Law carries into effect in Sweden the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea, 1996, and the Protocol of 2010 to the Convention. The provisions of Articles 1, 3-5, 13-20, 21bis, 22, 37.2-4 and 39-41 of the HNS Convention in the wording of the original texts shall be applicable in Sweden as Swedish law. The Law also concerns the International Hazardous and Noxious Substances Fund established under the Convention. and more specifically payments of the Fund in respect of damages and the relationship between the Fund and shipowners. The Law also specifies the obligations of recipients in Sweden of specified cargo.

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

    • In 2020, a trial began for what has been called one of Sweden’s most serious environmental crimes. A 70 year old man was accused of having several tonnes of environmentally hazardous waste in his workshop not far from a residential area and a school, south of Jönköping. The man was prosecuted at Jönköping District Court for owning a chrome-plating workshop which, according to the indictment, stored chemicals in a defective, environmentally hazardous and uncontrolled manner. After going bankrupt in 2016, the company was investigated by the municipality’s environmental and health protection inspectors, who  discovered leaking acid and dangerous chemicals that were stored completely open, both outside and inside the company’s premises. Several tons of dangerous chemicals were also found in a hidden space in the property’s basement. According to officials, there were numerous unmarked rusty barrels, dangerous heavy metals and several hundred liters of cyanide-containing powder. It was, according to the indictment, “a contaminant that is harmful to human health, animals or plants”. The manner in which the cyanide-containing substances have been stored pose serious threats to human health because said substances can form hydrogen cyanide to a lethal extent. Chief Prosecutor Stefan Edwardson explained the company was not far from a school where there was a risk of leakage to the groundwater and that experts from the National Forensic Center were called in and worked for several days on the site to map all hazardous waste. Three new heads of operations have been appointed to support a safer supervisory process for the municipality.

    References and Further Reading


    Ministry for the Environment and Climate: utrikesdepartementet.registrator@gov.se