Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Brexit: and weakening climate change regulation

It is clear that those who are keen on Brexit are also keen on 'Clexit' - or exiting the UK from international climate change commitments:
Futures Forum: Climate change: Brexit and Clexit
Futures Forum: Brexit: and climate change denial
Futures Forum: Brexit: and climate change: "How Donald Trump and Brexit help us understand the cultural politics of climate change"
Futures Forum: Brexit: and Clexit: or the links between Eurosceptics and climate change sceptics

However, there is still pressure to 'do something':
Futures Forum: UK to cut 'all avoidable plastic waste' by 2042
Futures Forum: The UK government "should bring in an environment act immediately"

And green organisations are trying to see Brexit as an opportunity to 'do something': 

Greener UK is an unprecedented coalition of environmental organisations tracking Brexit to make sure that environmental protections are not weakened or lost. We are also using the unique moment that Brexit offers to recommend ways to improve and enhance the UK’s environment.

With a year to go until Brexit, we have urged the government to fulfil its “green Brexit” promises by bringing forward ambitious new legislation.

Our Brexit Risk Tracker is monitoring the progress across all areas of environmental policy as we leave the EU. See the latest update.

We have proposed changes to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill to safeguard UK environmental protections and we are working to secure strong future UK legislation on the environment.

Vital information for decision makers: 
Regular Greener UK briefings are providing comprehensive advisory to decision makers and the public on a wide range of areas.

Greener UK Home

The group put out a paper last month: 

The governance gap: why Brexit could weaken environmental protections 

Under the UK government’s current plans, it will be harder to enforce and uphold environmental laws after Brexit. 


Existing domestic accountability mechanisms, through the agencies, courts and legislatures of the four nations of the UK, have worked alongside EU mechanisms to give substance and impetus to environmental law. These national arrangements are necessary, but insufficient by themselves. With adequate resources, they will provide important safeguards but, on their own, and without reinforcement, they will not fill the post-Brexit governance gap.

The governance gap: why Brexit could weakenenvironmental protections

The question now is to what extent Brexit will bring us Clexit anyway:
Brexit may weaken climate change regulation in the UK - Climate Action Programme

And Greener UK has again voiced concerns that there will not be sufficient safeguards set up, as reported in the Observer over the weekend: 

UK’s green watchdog will be powerless over climate change post-Brexit

Environmentalists accuse government of using withdrawal of EU controls to weaken regulation

James Tapper
Sun 2 Sep 2018


Fumes rise from the chimney of a coal-fired power plant. Photograph: John Giles/PA

Ministers are “deliberately weakening” the green watchdog that will hold the government to account after Britain leaves the EU, according to Labour’s shadow Brexit minister.

Theresa May pledged last January to create a “world-leading, independent, statutory body” to ensure ministers stick to their commitments – replacing the power of the European commission to take governments to the European court of justice (ECJ) for not fulfilling their obligations.

Yet the UK watchdog will not have any powers relating to climate change, an issue of heightened public concern since the summer heatwave that has seen wildfires in the north of England and outbreaks of tropical diseases in parts of Europe.

Matthew Pennycook, Labour’s Brexit spokesman, said: “Our EU membership has been key to delivering and enforcing UK emission reductions. In choosing to exclude climate change from the remit of their environmental watchdog, ministers are deliberately weakening the tools we have to hold them to account. The Brexit process cannot be used as a cover to water down the UK’s leadership on climate change.”

Greener UK, which represents 13 of the UK’s biggest environmental organisations including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the RSPB and the National Trust , said it is very concerned about the omission of climate policy from the watchdog’s remit. About 55% of the UK’s planned carbon reductions are tied to regulations derived from the EU and would have been enforced by the European commission.

The watchdog should cover issues such as protecting harbour porpoises, ensuring that water quality and air quality remain high, and protecting wildlife habitats – issues that the European commission has taken action against the UK government.

Environmentalists believe the ECJ has been effective in getting Whitehall to live up to its pledges. According to research by the Institute for Government, between 2003 and 2016 the commission started 753 actions against the British government, of which about 120 related to the environment. Yet ministers were quick to settle matters before they reached the ECJ, which only passed judgments on 63 cases. However, 29 of those cases related to the environment, indicating that ministers would often not take action unless forced to do so.

In announcing its plans for the watchdog, the government argued that climate change was already covered by the Climate Change Act 2008, which created the committee on climate change and international treaties. But the CCC, which said recently that the UK would miss its 2025 and 2030 carbon reduction targets, only has powers to advise and report.

Its chairman, Lord Deben, told the environment secretary Michael Gove that excluding climate policy from the watchdog’s remit would be “artificial and potentially create problems”. But Gove is not responsible for government policy on climate change. The issue has now been passed over to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Shane Tomlinson, director at E3G, part of Greener UK, said: “The government says it wants to be a leader in tackling climate change. However, leadership is not just about the promises you make, but being accountable for delivering on them. The UK public deserves to have a watchdog with teeth that can enforce climate policy and ensure that our pledges become reality.”

A spokesman for the BEIS said the government was committed to meeting its climate change targets.

UK’s green watchdog will be powerless over climate change post-Brexit | Environment | The Guardian

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