14. 03. 2016

Brexit and the Environment: Sorting Out Fact From Fiction

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Predictably, the Referendum campaign so far has been much more about instinct than it has about reasoned debate. And that’s true in the environment space as much as anywhere else. 

Which is why we can all welcome a really helpful new report from the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), ‘The Potential Policy and Environmental Consequences for the UK of a Departure from the European Union’.

It includes a useful summary of the key environmental achievements of the EU. 

"The following are some of the key environmental achievements of EU countries working together within a common legislative framework that would have not occurred at the same level if they had acted alone:

• A substantial decline in most industrial sources of air and water pollution, particularly in improving urban air quality and in tackling diffuse water pollution, for example from farming.
• A fall in greenhouse gas emissions and rapid recent growth in the deployment of renewable energy.
• Significant reductions in the pressures on human health from environmental pollution.
• A significantly improved system of protection for species and habitats.
• A transformation in waste management, with a major increase in recycling rates and the first steps towards the creation of a more circular economy.
• The establishment of a thorough system for the review of the safety of chemicals that can be expected to lead to the future withdrawal and substitution of various toxic substances.
• The foundations for addressing the mounting pressures on the marine environment in the form of a legislative framework which is starting to have an effect.
• Improvements on access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters at EU level."

It also includes a careful consideration of the implications of Brexit under two scenarios: the first where we retain our access to the European Union internal market through membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) – the Norway scenario, as it is sometimes called; and the second where we choose to sit entirely outside all European institutions.

Beyond that, there’s tons of good stuff about all aspects of environment policy per se, as well as about the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy – well worth a detailed look. 

The Report was commissioned by three of the leading NGOs in the UK: The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and WWF.

As far as WWF and the RSPB are concerned, that’s probably all they’ll be doing during the campaign – for highly disturbing reasons which I’ll return to in my second piece on the Government’s authoritarian tendencies.

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