Environmental protection legislation

Environmental Protection Act

The Environmental Protection Act (527/2014) implements the European Union directive on industrial emissions (integrated pollution prevention and control, IED), which obliges EU member states to integrate the control of emissions caused by industry.

The stipulations on environmental protection are combined in the Environmental Protection Act. It is a general act on the prevention of pollution, which is applied to all activities that cause or may cause environmental damage.

The principles and general duties of the Environmental Protection Act are:

  • the prevention or reduction of harmful impacts (principle of preventing and minimizing harmful impact),
  • the use of the best available technique (BAT principle),
  • the use of best practices to prevent pollution (principle of environmentally best use),
  • parties engaged in activities that pose a risk of pollution have a duty to prevent or minimize harmful impacts

An integrated system for environmental permits

The Environmental Protection Act is based on an integrated system for environmental permits. With the integration of the environmental permits, pollution can be prevented efficiently since the environment is considered as a whole.

Applications for the environmental permits are made to one authority, and all the environmental effects of the activity will be assessed during the consideration of the permit. Technological solutions that prevent pollution as much as possible and that are at the lowest possible cost will be applied to reduce emissions.

The act defines more explicitly the requirements of environmental permits and the prerequisites for granting a permit.

Responsibility for environmental permits

The Regional State Administrative Agencies (AVIs) are the state authorities charged with issuing environmental permits under Finland's Water Act (587/2011) and Environmental Protection Act. The state authorities handle permits for activities with major environmental impacts, as well as all permits under the Water Act. Other environmental permits are dealt with by the municipal environmental protection authorities.

A key provision of the Environmental Protection Act is the public's right to influence the decision-making by stating an opinion on a permit application. Other stakeholders also have certain rights under the Act. In addition to the parties involved (permit applicants and persons who are affected by an activity), associations and foundations that promote the protection of the environment, health and nature or that work to improve the living environment and who may be affected by an activity have the right to appeal a permit decision.

Other legislation on environmental protection 

The Environmental Protection Act does not cover physical or structural damage to the environment which is not caused by pollution, or land use and nature conservation. These issues are covered in separate statutes.

The Water Act controls the use of water resources and structures built along waterways. The Waste Act (646/2011) covers waste management and recovery. Other separate legislation covers genetic technologies, chemicals, protection of the marine environment, and environmental impact assessments.

The unofficial translations of the Acts and other legislation are available in the Data Bank of Finnish Legislation:

For more information

Tia Laine-Ylijoki, Legal Adviser, tel. +358 295 250 150, firstname.surname@ym.fi

Published 2015-10-22 at 12:52, updated 2016-08-08 at 13:23