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Spain

Environmental rules

Updated 10/2012

Legal requirements

Is your enterprise responsible towards the environment? The environment covers all the conditions making the birth and development of life possible: atmosphere, air, noise, land use regulation, natural spaces, water, plants, animals, biodiversity, natural resources and other aspects.

Our existence as human beings depends on the environment. That is why we aim for sustainable economic development, compatible with the environment. Economic development which provides for the life and economy of future generations. Hence our interest in the sustainable use of natural resources.

Sustainable economic development demands the collaboration of all: public authorities, enterprises and citizens.

The environment is present in all the sectors of the economy, affects all enterprises, to a greater or lesser extent. All economic activities consume natural resources and impact on the environment: agriculture, fishing, mining, energy, industry, construction and services. Your enterprise included.

All enterprises must comply with the requirements laid down in environmental regulations. Perform official procedures in this regard.

The regulations, requirements and procedures are different for each enterprise, depending on its economic activity: e.g.  A farmer using water for irrigation needs to apply for a water use permit; an industrial plant emitting greenhouse gases needs to have an emissions rights allocation; a nightclub must comply with noise pollution legislation, and so on. Enterprises need to perform a number of procedures with the public authorities: for example, presentation of a responsible declaration, application for a permit, official registration and other steps.

Your enterprise can go beyond the legal requirements in its environmental responsibility. On a voluntary basis you could operate in a more sustainable manner, generate products or services which better respect the environment, collaborate on specific projects connected with the environment.

Enterprises which are environmentally responsible can generate returns as a result: offer high-quality products and services; better respond to the demands of clients and society. For the enterprise, such initiatives generate: trust, prestige, recognition from clients and society at large.

In order for your enterprise to benefit from its environmental responsibility this must be publicised, communicated. One of the ways to publicise such initiatives is to subject the enterprise to environmental audits and so obtain an environmental quality certificate;

Public Environmentally Related Actions affect Enterprises:

In this section we address the various levels of public authority involved in environmental matters. Along with the main aspects connected with this.

Public authorities

Public initiatives are undertaken at the following levels: international, national, regional and local.

The United Nations promotes sustainable development. There are international treaties regarding the environment signed by many countries, for example addressing climate change, protection of endangered species and other aspects.

The European Union has powers in this field to issue regulations and undertake initiatives where it is better to act at the European level. In fields such as: water, air, climate change, noise pollution, biodiversity and other spheres. Some specifically apply to industry and small and medium enterprises.

In Spain the Central Government represents Spain within the European Union, transposing European standards into domestic law. It has powers to establish regulations covering basic and common aspects throughout the entire country regarding the environment.

On an exceptional basis it also takes specific action in the general interest where this affects several autonomous regions or is of particular significance. E.g. Environmental impact studies for public infrastructure projects for which the State is responsible; management of several water basin authorities which affect areas covering several autonomous regions.

The Autonomous Communities (regions) comply with the common framework established by the State, issue supplementary regulations and exercise most powers regarding environmental management. Enterprises will need to undertake most environmental procedures at this level, and in many cases this may be performed online.

Local authorities have more limited responsibility in the field of the environment, within the limits established by State and Autonomous Community regulations, for example regarding urban development, waste collection and recycling, drains, noise and other aspects.

Network of environmental authorities and Public Consultation.

Issues

Public actions and regulations regarding the environment affect a wide range of spheres, but above all the following aspects: coasts and the marine environment, air, climate change, land use regulation, biodiversity, environmental impact assessment, waste, packaging. All these regulations and actions impact on enterprises depending on their operations.

Water, Coasts and Marine Environment:

Enterprises in order to perform certain activities such as: make use of water in industry, agriculture, livestock farming; perform discharges; establish physical installations on beaches. In general, activities impacting on: public waters, coasts, marine environment, need to perform procedures with the public authorities: enroll with official registers, serve notifications, hold permits or official concessions.

Climate Change:

For example, enterprises must comply with atmospheric gas emissions limits. Where necessary, they will need to hold greenhouse gas emissions rights. If an enterprise's products emit pollutant gases, for example a car, then they must also comply with the established pollutant gas emissions limits.

Biodiversity:

All citizens and enterprises must respect the measures adopted to preserve biodiversity and natural species.

Quality and Environmental Impact Assessment:

Assessment of the environmental impact of certain business projects. Most of these assessments are performed by the Autonomous Communities. The State holds responsibility for performing such assessments in the case of projects subject to State authority. E.g. In the case of the construction of a highway or a port of general interest.

Enterprises must respect the limits, comply with requirements and perform official procedures for activities subject to regulations regarding air quality, noise, waste packaging, discharges, transfers of hazardous substances and others.

Environmental responsibility: Enterprises are liable for any damage which their activities may cause to the environment, in which case they will be obliged to restore the natural environment to the situation in place before their activity was performed.

Businesses are free to go beyond the minimum environmental legal requirements at their own initiative.

Administrative procedures

Enterprises must perform certain procedures with the public authorities with regard to the environment: some with the State, most with the Autonomous Communities and Local Authorities.

If you wish to perform procedures with the Government of Spain regarding the environment, you can do so in a convenient and straightforward manner online. Access the "Ministry of Environment Electronic Office". Here you will find procedures regarding: water, biodiversity, environmental assessment and quality, environmental impact assessments, climate change, coasts, marine environment and other matters:

Companies can use the Internet to access a number of electronic services provided by the Autonomous Communities (regions).

A number of local authorities also.

Programmes

Help & advice

Help & advice

E-mail a business organisation near you

The EU runs a network (Enterprise Europe Network) of local business organisations in most European countries that may be able to help you.

Choose your country and town and enter your enquiry below.

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