Uncertainty filled the air like thick fog on 24 June, 2016 as the result of the EU referendum began to sink in. Green Alliance, along with other environmental organisations, had done its homework, scoping out the likely implications of different scenarios: an overwhelming vote to leave or remain, or a close call either way. That day, we found ourselves dealing with the scenario that would leave us with the greatest deal of work to do: the country had voted to leave, putting the estimated four-fifths of the UK’s environmental protections that stem from EU law into question. Read more
The Prime Minister’s latest intervention in the EU referendum campaign illustrates how the environment is taking its place in the modern political canon. Speaking from the RSPB’s Rainham Marshes nature reserve, Cameron noted how our EU membership underpins crucial environmental protections, and talked about the importance of nurturing Britain’s countryside and wildlife. At the same time, his speech, if not his words, demonstrated that environmentalists are important too.
The Eurosceptic media recently ran a set of stories on the EU’s ecodesign rules, repeating claims by UKIP MEP David Coburn that “EU approved” toasters had ruined his breakfast, and suggesting that many “vital gadgets” could “face the chop”. In fact, toasters aren’t currently regulated under the EU’s Ecodesign Directive, so any difficulty Mr Coburn has had operating his toaster is because he bought a shoddy appliance, not because of the EU. Read more
This article was first published on BusinessGreen.
The UK’s electricity system is increasingly connected to our European neighbours. In the past half decade, we’ve built two new electricity interconnectors, linking us to the Netherlands and Ireland. Earlier this year, the Treasury’s own National Infrastructure Commission endorsed a plan to roughly triple our capacity to import power, mainly from our EU neighbours. In 2014, we imported 21 TWh to the UK, nearly as much power as Hinkley C will provide per year, should it ever be built. In five years’ time, we could be importing a quarter of our power from our European friends: more than the UK’s whole coal fleet provided in 2015. This is a faster change than even the famed ‘dash for gas’ in the 1990s. Read more
The recent letter from conservative backbenchers supporting the fifth carbon budget reminds us again that the Climate Change Act is worth its weight in gold. Eight years on from its agreement the act retains strong cross party support, despite concerted attempts to make climate change a partisan issue. Its regular budget setting cycle means the government regularly has to restate and reappraise the longer term direction of the economy. Carbon budgets have provided one of the few points of stability in a period of high policy volatility. Read more
This post is by Andy Jordan and Viviane Gravey of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. They recently co-led an expert review of the environmental implications of Brexit funded by the UK in a Changing Europe Initiative.
Last week’s statement by a cross party group of environmental politicians was important, less for what it contained and more for what was behind it. Launched with the backing of Britain Stronger in Europe, it marked the first attempt by either of the two official referendum campaigns to capture the environmental vote. Having seized the initiative, the eyes of the environmental movement are now on Vote Leave to see how – and, indeed, if – it responds. Read more
This is an edited version of an article that features in the latest issue of Green Alliance’s journal Inside Track which focuses on the environmental case for staying in the EU.
Lord Deben is chair of the Committee on Climate Change. He was secretary of state for the environment, 1993-97, and minister for agriculture, fisheries and food, 1989-93.
1. The EU is also an environment union
The EU was established for economic reasons but has evolved into an environment union. Threats like air pollution, climate change and habitat loss mean the UK and its neighbours have used the EU to agree over 100 new laws to protect people and the environment. These cover everything from reducing the risk of industrial chemical accidents to protecting rare birds. The EU now has the biggest programme of environmental legislation in the world. Read more
The first rule of politics is ‘be there’ and Nigel Haigh was there. In and out of Brussels for some 30 years, both influencing and observing the emergence of EU environment policy. Read more
This post is by Nigel Haigh, director of the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) 1980- 98 and chair of Green Alliance 1989-98. He is author of the forthcoming book EU Environmental Policy – its journey to centre stage (to be published in December by Routledge)
As the debate around an in/out EU referendum intensifies, I am sure others will point out that it is because of the EU that we now have low energy light bulbs and separate our biodegradable kitchen waste to reduce methane emissions from landfills. There are plenty of other examples, mandatory air quality standards being particularly relevant just now. Read more