Saudi Arabia’s New Environmental Law – Key Actions

The new Environmental Law, which came into force in January 2021, significantly expands on the previous General Environmental Law in scope of obligations and scale of potential penalties.

High-impact changes resulting from the Law include:

  1. Raised penalty amounts for violations
  2. Expanded range of prohibitions and obligations
  3. Expanded range for license & permit requirements for environmentalactivities or activities that impact the environment
  4. Users to set phase-out plans for air-polluting and ozone-depleting substances
  5. Marine transport operators to keep records of pollution-prevention plans and procedures
  6. Heightened cooperation with the Ministry of Interior for monitoring environmental compliance and dealing with violators
  7. Loan-making funds must consider environmental aspects of all potentially funded projects

A major focus of the Environmental Law is to protect all forms of environmental mediums (the water, air, land, and soil surrounding humans, including habitats, natural systems and processes) from pollution, harm, or negative impact, in line with the regulations. This includes requiring phase-out plans required for activities (import, export, production, disposal, etc.) involving ozone-depleting and air-polluting substances.

Licenses or permits are required to:

  • Undertake activities which may produce pollutants or emissions or otherwise impact environmental mediums;
  • Use, transport, store, or sell any natural resources or products derived from environmental mediums within KSA’s sovereign land or marine territory
  • Deal in ozone-depleting substances and equipment containing them
  • Dispose of sewage or treated components into any environmental medium or into wells.

Key actions for entities to take now include:

  • Review of the obligations set by the law including licensing, permitting and other obligations and prohibitions in order to determine compliance.
  • Consider the need to review any activities within environmentally sensitive areas to ensure adherence with the Law’s requirements, such as marine and coastal areas, lands with vegetative cover and protected areas.

Penalties for violators include:

  • Fines reaching a maximum of SAR 100 thousand, 5 million, 20 million, or 30 million, depending on the violation;
  • Prison;
  • Suspension or cancellation of licenses/permits;
  • Doubled punishments when repeated within one year;
  • Public announcement of violators, who must rehabilitate the harm caused.

Read the full version of the brief in PDF here.