Some Comments on the Finnish Proposal for an Act on Compensation for Environmental Damage (Government Bill 1992:165)
By Professor PETER WETTERSTEIN
The Finnish Government has submitted a bill to Parliament for an Act on Compensation for Environmental Damage (infra the Proposal). Up to now — and until the Proposal becomes law — the question of civil liability for environmental damage has to a large extent been governed by general rules of tort [especially the Tort Act of 1974 (412/74)] and rules of neighbouring law [Act on Neighbour Relations of 1920 (26/20)]. Also, the Water Act of 1961 (264/61) has been of significance in this context. In addition, there are in Finland special rules concerning e. g., liability for nuclear plants and liability for oil pollution damage.1 Consequently, the rules on liability for environmental damage are not comprehensive, they lack uniformity and it has been difficult to obtain an overview of them.
There are several arguments in favour of comprehensive rules on environmental impairment liability. First of all, technical advantages derive from such rules. Rules on liability that cover a wide field of environmental damage are gathered together in one act. The rules are easier to apply, e. g., fewer definitions and limitations are required. Such rules might also lead to economy of litigation, i. e., the awarding of compensation would be facilitated and made faster. There is also the matter of the information effect of comprehensive rules; legislation assembled in one act would further information about the liability rules — and hence also preventive aims. It is more difficult to obtain information about splintered and, in part, uncodified rules of liability. Moreover, questions concerning liability for damage to the environment are of great practical importance and in connection with them we encounter new
1 See e. g., P.Wetterstein, Damage from International Disasters in the Light of Tort and Insurance Law. General Report submitted to the AIDA (Association Internationale de Droit des Assurances) 8th World Congress on Insurance Law in Copenhagen, June 18– 22, 1990, Copenhagen 1990, p. 43 f.