Readers of this site will recall earlier posts (Review of the Balance of Competences between the UK and the European Union, Balance of Competencies: Presentation and Deadline & IEMA Response to UK/EU Balance of Competence Review (and my LinkedIn discussions at Will the UK environment be better inside or outside the European Union? & Environment and climate change ‘audit’ into what the EU does and how it affects the UK. Can you provide evidence? on the subject of the Government’s consultation on the “Balance of Competencies.
The consultation on the “Balance of Competencies has finished and the results are eagerly awaited with the anticipation that the majority of respondents are in favour of the current balance between the European Union and the United Kingdom.
Now is a timely opportunity to review the comments from a research report entitled “Report on the influence of EU policies on the environment” published by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP). It supports the role of the United Kingdom within the European Union with respect to environmental policy and regulation.
It recognises that one of the most notable achievements of the European Union (EU) has been to create a widely respected framework of environmental and climate policies & acknowledges that the United Kingdom (UK) has played an important role in shaping significant elements of EU policy, including pivotal legislation on industrial pollution and water (including the Water Framework Directive). Recognising the advantages of advancing policy at an EU rather than purely national level, the UK is currently one of the main advocates of a more ambitious EU climate policy. In this and other spheres the EU framework and weight in global negotiations complement national policy.
The evidence points to greater environmental progress on a wide range of fronts because of EU policy than would have occurred in its absence. In spheres as varied as air and water pollution, waste management and recycling, nature conservation, noise and impact assessment, EU measures have augmented or moved beyond previous UK measures with substantial environmental benefits.
Whilst there is no conclusive proof of exactly where national legislation would have stood in the absence of EU measures there is a consensus in the literature and amongst those consulted in the course of this review that the baseline has been raised. Even in areas where the UK had relatively well established law and systems prior to the implementation of EU measures, their introduction has added value.
As a member of the Union, the UK is able to contribute to the formal as well as the less formal channels for determining EU policy. This includes the review of existing policy through mechanisms such as the recently created “Fitness Checks”. Opportunities to express views on the value of EU policy in certain areas and the operation of the “subsidiarity” principle can be taken.
Outside the EU in the EEA (European Economic Area), EU policy on the environment is applied in a large number of spheres but with no opportunity to play a substantive role in the legislative process. For Switzerland, with looser and more cumbersome arrangements than EFTA countries, the leverage on a dominant EU policy framework is even less.
The UK has shown that it can be an influential force in environment and climate policy from inside the EU and for climate mitigation particularly needs a strong EU position to complement national objectives. A deliberate choice to act as an outsider in this sphere now would have much greater drawbacks than would be justified by any gain in flexibility.
A copy of the research report can be found at http://bit.ly/16fvtlo