Recommendations made in a report by the UK Parliament’s the Environmental Audit Committee have highlighted a number of serious issues which have implications across the environmental agenda in the wake of the Brexit vote.
The report, The Future of the Natural Environment after the EU Referendum, focused primarily on the impacts of the referendum result on wildlife, land and farming, and has been welcomed by waste and recycling industry body Resources and Waste UK (R&WUK), the partnership between the Chartered Institute of Wastes Management (CIWM) and the Environmental Services Association (ESA).
“The committee’s recommendations reflect the concerns of many in the waste and resource management field,” said Steve Lee, director general of R&WUK.
“UK waste policy has been shaped and underpinned by EU legislation for over two decades, during which we have made significant improvements in the safe and sustainable management of waste and secondary resources,” he continued.
According to Lee the considerable uncertainty about the impact of Brexit in this policy area is, therefore, of significant concern:
“The report rightly flags up the potential pitfalls ahead, including the difficulty of transposing some of the key environmental legislation into UK law, the risks of zombie legislation, and the level of resource that will be available within Defra to manage the transition.
“There are also question marks about the process and level of parliamentary scrutiny should UK governments then seek to change some of this legislation, and how performance and standards will be monitored and enforced in future in the absence of the current EU infraction system and resort to the ECJ.
“In the longer term, the committee has also captured the concern that environmental standards may be compromised in the pursuit of new trade deals, with potential long term impacts not just on the quality of our environment but also on jobs, competitiveness and the UK’s future economic prospects.
In light of these important issues, R&WUK welcomes the committee’s suggestion that a thorough assessment of the body of environmental legislation to be transposed is undertaken, that the frameworks for the 25-yr Environment and Food & Farming plans are published in time to inform the Article 50 negotiations, and that consideration is given to the development of an overarching UK-wide legislative framework to ensure that similar or better environmental standards are maintained.
“While this would clearly take some time, it would also address the somewhat piecemeal nature of the current body of legislation, drawing together and rationalising the environmental protection regimes for biodiversity, land, air, water and waste, and reducing the risk of antagonistic policies. It would also help to avoid the otherwise inevitable divergence in environmental policy across UK countries that will occur if a shared vision and set of high-level objectives are not articulated.
“It is all very well for the government to say that it wants to be “the first Government to leave the environment in a better state than it found it” – now we have to see action to make this happen and clear evidence that this will be one of the underpinning principles in the forthcoming Brexit and trade negotiations.”
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