New Environmental Code of Kazakhstan: principles, changes, innovations

In the previous issue of the heading " Man. Society. Nature" we have reviewed the system of environmental safety, in this issue we begin to get acquainted with the basic principles on the basis of which the new Environmental Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan is being developed.

As part of the implementation of the message of the head of state to the people of Kazakhstan dated January 10, 2018, the Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan began to develop the Environmental Code (hereinafter - the Code) in a new edition.

In the draft Code the particular attention will be given to the disclosure and application of the oldest of the principles of not only environmental regulation, but also state and international environmental policy in general,- the principle of «polluter pays».

In the vast majority of countries in the world, this principle is recognized as a general principle of environmental law, and it is implemented at the national, regional and international levels.

The first time this principle was officially mentioned back in 1972 and its main function was the distribution of costs for prevention and control measures. That is, the polluter must bear the costs of the implementation of measures prescribed by state bodies to ensure an acceptable state of the environment. This principle was also stated under No. 16 in the Rio De Janeiro Declaration on Environment and Development (1992). As a country that has acceded to the Rio De Janeiro Declaration on Environment and Development, the Republic of Kazakhstan has committed itself to following the principles laid down in the declaration.

In the existing legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan, «the polluter pays» principle is applied very limitedly and in accordance not always with the interpretation of this principle at the international level. In fact, the implementation of this principle in Kazakhstan comes down only to charging for emissions and recovering damage to the environment. At the same time, the funds received to the budget in the form of fees for emissions and compensation for damage do not have a specific purpose and are not spent to a greater extent on environmental issues, as a result of which the “polluter pays” principle is aimed at achieving (prevention, reduction and pollution control) are not achieved.

Today, «the polluter pays» principle is perceived much more widely throughout the world as the overarching principle of environmental responsibility in general. In addition to incurring the costs of the polluter to prevent and control pollution, it also covers its legal obligation to eliminate environmental damage.

The preventive function of this principle is based on the assumption that the polluter will reduce the amount of pollution, as soon as the costs that is forced to bear in connection with pollution (taxes, fines, damages and others) become higher than the benefits of continuing such pollution and not taking measures to reduce them. Given that the cost of preventive measures is also borne by the potential polluter, he receives an incentive to reduce risks and invest in an appropriate risk management program.

Also, today the widespread interpretation of the “polluter pays” principle, the polluters include not only people who actually harm the environment, but also those who only pose a risk to the environment in conditions when pollution has not (yet) occurred (e.g. companies involved in the production and distribution of potentially harmful products).

In certain situations, the pollutant is also the final consumer of the product, in which case the pollutant “pays” indirectly, paying the costs of preventing and controlling pollution as part of the price of the product. To increase the environmental responsibility of consumers, many countries levy an environmental “product tax”: for example, in Germany (since 1999) and in the Czech Republic (since 2008) taxes on gas, fossil solid fuel, and electric energy are levied; Japan (since 2000) levied taxes on oil, oil products, gas, coal, diesel and aviation fuel, and electricity.

The main goal of such taxes is not replenishment of the budget, but a change in consumer behavior, the transition to more ecological healthy products and the expected positive effect on the environment. At the same time, all collected “environmental taxes” are allocated exclusively for financing environmental protection.