UK consultation on EU membership reveals benefits of green laws

The UK Government’s questioning of the EU’s authority on certain policy areas, including the environment and fisheries, has revealed important success stories of Europe’s environmental acquis. 

The consultation process initiated in July 2012, with the aim of assessing the possibility of repatriating policy powers, has so far resulted in a number of important contributions stressing the significance of the European Union’s environment, fisheries and climate policies.

A report produced by the Institute for European Environmental Policy, commissioned for the purpose of this consultation by the environmental organisations WWF, RSPB, Friends of the Earth and the Wildlife Trusts, concludes that “EU measures have been crucial in laying the foundations for the “green economy” driving innovation, the emergence of new industries and products and helping to create opportunities for competing in new markets, for example in Asia where highly efficient low impact products are prominent in the market place.” 

According to the response submitted by WWF UK, “[e]nvironmental law and policy should not be misrepresented as a source of constraint on economic activity. This response demonstrates that it leads to new markets and technologies and to increased sustainability and efficiency of production systems. It has also catalysed economic and commercial benefits by establishing common EU standards for companies, which operate in an increasingly pan-European market (e.g. EU standards for CO2 emissions from vehicles). And there are also employment and economic benefits arising from tourism, alongside social benefits, such as the health and well-being of citizens and less tangible changes in the quality of life and aspects of culture. 

EU legislation has led to stronger environmental protection in the UK, including improvements in water quality, reductions in industrial emissions and reduced levels of waste going to landfill. Despite various setbacks and a current lack of ambition, EU legislation has delivered significant achievements such as establishing the world’s first Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and accelerating investments and cost reductions in several renewable energy technologies.”

Sources: IEEP report, WWF’s CrisisWatch 6 and 12.

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