The act is a collection of updated environmental legislation for Svalbard. It deals with area protection, species management (flora and fauna), human artefacts, land-use plans, pollution, waste disposal, traffic and cabins.

It lays down important overriding principles of environmental law with regard to prudence, notification rules, the precautionary principle, total strain assessments, economic accountability for environmental damage, environment techniques and aspects of investment.

The main purpose of the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act is to safeguard virtually untouched areas in Svalbard. Within the limits of this framework, environmentally sound settlement, research and commercial activity is provided for.

The act and its related regulations came into effect on 1 July 2002. It was revised in 2012.