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The Guardian view on air pollution: playing politics with the nation’s health

The high court shouldn’t have been asked to decide on this. But it has rightly ruled against the government’s latest efforts to delay action on air quality

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/27/the-guardian-view-on-air-pollution-playing-politics-with-the-nations-health

Thanks to this government’s intransigence about tackling air pollution, the battle to improve the quality of the air we breathe has played out not in the political arena, but in the courts. Time after time, the government has found itself on the wrong side of the law: first for its failure to meet legally binding European targets on harmful nitrogen dioxide emissions; then, for failing to produce an adequate plan to address these. Its latest delaying tactic has been to claim it could not meet this week’s court-imposed deadline for publishing a new draft plan, because of the “purdah” convention ruling out new government announcements in the run-up to an election.

And so it has fallen to judges yet again to take the government to task over its failure to act. Today’s ruling took apart the government’s case: its own purdah guidance sets out exemptions where public health is at risk. As the judge pointed out, why would it be better to have parties debating what ought to be in a draft air pollution plan, when it could be debating what is actually in it?

The government’s real motivations are political, not procedural. Having delayed taking meaningful action for seven years, it is clearly nervous about proposing any measures that hit drivers of diesel cars during an election campaign. Its political cowardice is astounding – and pointless. Public attitudes have shifted in recent years, and London’s Labour mayor, Sadiq Khan, has made tackling air pollution one of his top priorities. The government is unlikely to face opposition to tougher action from any of its mainstream political opponents, and is enjoying double-digit poll leads.

Yet it continues to shirk its responsibilities to the nation’s public health. Today’s air pollution may be less visible than the smogs that settled over our cities in the 1950s, but it is a deadly killer, responsible for upwards of 40,000 premature deaths per year. London breached its annual air pollution limit just five days into 2017, and legal limits were easily surpassed in the vast majority of local authorities. The effects are particularly pernicious for children whose lungs are still developing.

The human cost makes the government’s latest attempts to delay a disgrace. The two-month extension it was seeking for its final plan could have meant thousands of avoidable premature deaths, all in service of not wanting to jeopardise a marginal number of votes in an election that it is on course to win handsomely. It’s a sick calculus.

The good news is that air pollution is easier to tackle than other environmental and public health challenges. Unlike climate change, it is relatively localised: city-scale actions to address pollution levels can have a marked effect on their air quality. Much (though by no means all) of the problem comes down to emissions from diesel vehicles and, to a greater extent than in other areas of public health, consumers are highly responsive to financial incentives. The irony is that we know this because many have switched from petrol to diesel as a result of sweeteners introduced back when diesel was thought to be more environmentally friendly due to its lower carbon emissions.

But heavy lobbying from the car industry in Westminster and Brussels has staved off firm action. European emissions tests for diesel cars have been far easier to manipulate than in the US; as a result, 97% of modern diesel cars exceed the official limit for NOx pollution. Behind the scenes, the British government has tried to block tougher testing. It’s a familiar story: the government similarly watered down plans to tackle childhood obesity in the face of special pleading from the food and drink industry.

The high court ruling puts the ball back in the government’s court. It should choose to accept it, rather than appeal. But either way, it has been exposed as a government willing to privilege marginal political advantage and the lobbying efforts of big business over the health of the nation.

Climate Science Denier Myron Ebell Explains How the Trump Team Will Gut the EPA, Abandon the Paris Agreement

https://www.desmogblog.com/2017/01/31/myron-ebell-epa-transition-how-trump-gut-epa-abandon-paris-agreement

As senators get set to vote Wednesday on the confirmation of President Donald Trump’s nominee to run the EPA, the man who was charged with leading the Environmental Protection Agency’s transition team gave some clues as to how it might be run.

Myron Ebell is one of the country’s most prominent climate science deniers, is the Director of Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), and until inauguration day was leading the EPA transition team at the behest of the then president-elect.

At a press event in London on Monday, attended and covered by DeSmog UK’s Mat Hope, Ebell admitted that he had never actually spoken to Trump, and that he was recruited to the transition team by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

What did Ebell’s transition team actually do?

“We did produce an action plan and an advisory document,” he said, but refused to discuss the contents of the “confidential” document. Coincidentally, in December, the CEI released a set of policy proposals called “Free to Prosper: A Pro-growth agenda for the 155th Congress,” which included a 26-page chapter on energy and the environment, though there is no way of knowing for sure if there is any overlap between the CEI proposal and Ebell’s action plan.

Although Ebell is no longer involved with the administration in any way, he made bold predictions and spoke confidently about how the Trump team would work to dismantle the EPA and pull out of the Paris Agreement, while finding plenty of time to bash the “climate industrial complex” and deny the consensus of climate scientists.

“The people of America have rejected the ‘expertariat’ about one thing after another including climate policy… climate scientists are in this for the glamour and the fame.”

“If we’re going to have some warming it should have started… it has been vastly exaggerated.”

Ebell indicated that Trump’s trust in Steve Bannon, the controversial former manager of Breitbart News who is now one of Trump’s closest advisors, was proof enough that Trump’s administration would take a torch to international climate action.

When pressed by reporters on the Paris Agreement, who brought up the fact that Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson said in his confirmation hearing that “it’s important that the U.S. maintains its seat at the table,” Ebell seemed confident that Tillerson wouldn’t get his way. “If Rex Tillerson disagrees with the president — who will win that? The president was elected and Rex Tillerson was appointed. I’d say the president was odds on to win.”

He also said that even if the U.S. wasn’t able to ditch the Paris Agreement immediately, the “cleanest” way to abandon the deal would be to “withdraw from the framework convention” entirely. Ebell was referring to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the body that holds the annual climate conferences and serves as the overarching body under which all international climate diplomacy is conducted.

Speaking specifically about the EPA, Ebell suggested that after Pruitt is confirmed, the agency will make a priority of stripping “harmful” air and water pollution regulations, and that the web of climate-related rules and actions would be systematically dismantled. Of the Climate Action Plan in particular, Ebell said, “There are numerous grounds that it should be undone and I hope that it will be undone.”

Ebell did not mention, however, that the EPA’s climate regulations stem from a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that held that greenhouse gases are air pollutants that should be covered by the Clean Air Act.

Ebell was speaking as a man no longer serving in the administration, as he resigned when Trump took office and presumably wasn’t asked to stay on board to lead the “beachhead” teams that are now lining the agency up for Pruitt’s likely arrival.

Some are speculating that Ebell’s move away is a sign that the Trump team is shifting away from the extreme climate deniers of the far right, and replacing them with personnel, like Tillerson, who at least publicly acknowledge the existence of manmade climate change. Regardless, it will be critical to track the early actions of the EPA after Pruitt presumably takes the helm, to see how they align with proposals that CEI put forth in December. For his part, Ebell is back at the fossil fuel industry–funded CEI full time.

China orders local meteorological bureaus to stop issuing smog alerts

China is suspending local meteorological bureaus from issuing smog alerts, media reported Wednesday, raising suspicions the government is attempting to suppress information about the country’s air pollution as public anger over the issue grows.

China’s Meteorological Administration notified local bureaus Tuesday to “immediately stop issuing smog alerts”, according to a photo of a notice posted on China’s Twitter-like social media platform Weibo.

Instead, the local departments can issue alerts for “fog” when visibility is less than 10 km, according to the notice.

The notice was issued because local “meterological bureaus and the environmental protection administration often disagree when they issue smog-related information,” a representative from the China Meteorological Administration told the Chinese website The Paper.

“A joint alerting mechanism will be formulated to consult how to and who should issue alerts for smog,” the representative said.

One single department will now be responsible for issuing smog alerts, The Paper reported.

The reports met with stinging criticism from online commentators who have long doubted the credibility of official data on air pollution.

“Before, they cheated us separately, and now, they are going to cheat us together,” one person said on Weibo.

“Even though they are working on a unified alert standard, they should not stop the existing alert system,” another replied.

The Chinese government has a colour-coded system of smog alerts, topping out at red when severe pollution is likely to last more than 72 hours.

The notice sets off a series of emergency measures, ranging from taking cars off the road to closing heavily polluting factories.

Local authorities have long hesitated to issue the notices over fears that they will harm economic performance, even when pollution levels are literally off the charts.

In late 2015, China issued its first ever red alert in response to public anger over the government’s reluctance to take action after a wave of suffocating smog hit the country’s northeast.

In the past, local and national authorities have issued contradictory, confusing alerts, one ordering factories and schools to be closed and one not.

Bad air is a source of enduring public anger in China, which has seen fast economic growth in recent decades but at the cost of widespread environmental problems.

In recent weeks, parents in particular have expressed outrage over the miasma that regularly affect hundreds of millions and has led to high levels of lung cancer, demanding that schools be equipped with air purifiers.

Earlier this month, many took to social media to express their anger about the thick smog that choked Beijing for over a week around the New Year but found their articles quickly deleted, a move that only increased their frustration.

“When people are gagged, the sky will be blue,” said one sarcasm-laced Weibo comment.

Ombudsman to probe Hong Kong government’s handling of illegal waste dumping cases on private land

Watchdog seeks public views and information on government’s control over landfilling and fly-tipping activities

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2046612/ombudsman-probe-hong-kong-governments-handling

The Ombudsman will launch a direct investigation into possible inadequacies of the environmental protection, planning and conservation departments in handling illegal landfilling and fly-tipping cases on private land.

The self-initiated probe by the government watchdog comes amid an increased frequency of such activities in the New Territories and on Lantau Island, where loopholes in planning and waste disposal regulations often fail to curb destructive activities.

“Even though actions were taken by the departments concerned, those actions were criticised as futile and ineffective by different sectors of the community,” the office of the watchdog said on Wednesday.

Ombudsman Connie Lau Yin-hing said the three government departments fell within the ambit of the investigation and that the focus of the probe would be on powers, responsibilities, mechanisms and procedures in regard to the control of such illegal landfilling and waste dumping. This would include their enforcement action and its outcomes.

“The aim is to identify inadequacies in the current legal framework, system and enforcement regime,” Lau’s office said.

In a bid to make the investigation “more comprehensive”, the watchdog is seeking views from the public and those affected from now until December 16.

Green groups have long raised concerns about private land – often old agricultural lots near or within ecologically sensitive sites such as country parks – being filled or dumped on in what they describe as “destroy first, develop later” tactics.

A massive “waste hill” in Tin Shui Wai drew public outcry earlier this year and exposed a thicket of government red tape and entangled bureaucracy in response and enforcement.

Meanwhile, a court fight with the government continues over private land dumping in Lantau’s Pui O coastal protection area.

Roy Ng Hei-man of the Conservancy Association welcomed the Ombudsman’s initiative and urged it to pitch real policy and regulatory changes.

“It’s a systematic problem. We have long held the view that amendments are needed in the waste disposal and town planning ordinances,” Ng said. “Those involved can still take advantage of many legal loopholes.”

One example, he said, was the waste disposal ordinance, which he stressed could not regulate illegal dumping on private land even in light of the environmental impact.

Ng also questioned why the Lands Department was left out of the investigation.

The departments said they would cooperate fully when the probe begins.

AGW Denialist and lobbyist Myron Ebell tapped to head the EPA

Myron Ebell was just tapped to head the EPA .

This is a short summary about him .

Choosing Myron Ebell means Trump plans to drastically reshape climate policies

Ebell is a well-known and polarizing figure in the energy and environment realm. His participation in the EPA transition signals that the Trump team is looking to drastically reshape the climate policies the agency has pursued under the Obama administration. Ebell’s role is likely to infuriate environmentalists and Democrats but buoy critics of Obama’s climate rules.

Ebell’s views appear to square with Trump’s when it comes to EPA’s agenda. Trump has called global warming “bullshit” and he has said he would “cancel” the Paris global warming accord and roll back President Obama’s executive actions on climate change (ClimateWire, May 27).

His lobbying clients in 2016 include Koch Companies Public Sector LLC, Southern Company Services, Dow Chemical Co. and Competitive Power Ventures Inc., according to public disclosures.

and

Tobbacco industry

The tobacco company Phillip Morris hired Ebell in the 1990s as Policy Director to mount a campaign to make regulating the tobacco industry “politically unpalatable”, and to advocate for acceptance of “safer cigarettes.”[12] As part of its “Control Abuse of Power” (CAP) project,[13] Ebell launched lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the 1998 tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), respectively.

Media appearances

In 2001, Ebell stated his belief that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the EU and the rest of the world to harm America’s economy. He justified the allegation with a quote from European Commissioner Margot Wallström in her response to Bush’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol.[14] Ebell also called the UK’s Chief Scientist David King “an alarmist with ridiculous views who knows nothing about climate change”; he added that since all scientists in Europe and in other countries outside the USA were funded by governments, none of them could be seen as independent

This really is the end of the world as we know it. 2 degrees increase is already baked in. This is going to make it worse for all of us.

Global community must unite against Trump to avoid climate catastrophe

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
9 November 2016
Contact:
Climate Justice Info Service
climatejustinfo@gmail.com

Global community must unite against Trump to avoid climate catastrophe

As news of Donald Trump’s victory in the US Presidential Election reached Marrakech, civil society groups gathered at the COP22 United Nations annual climate change talks reacted:

“Whilst the election of a climate denier into the White House sends the wrong signal globally. The grassroots movements for climate justice – native american communities, people of color, working people – those that are at this moment defending water rights in Dakota, ending fossil fuel pollution, divesting from the fossil fuel industry, standing with communities who are losing their homes and livelihoods from extreme weather devastation to creating a renewable energy transformation – are the real beating heart of the movement for change. We will redouble our efforts, grow stronger and remain committed to stand with those on the frontline of climate injustice at home and abroad.. In the absence of leadership from our government, the international community must come together redouble their effort to prevent climate disaster,” said Jesse Bragg, from Boston-based Corporate Accountability International.

“For communities in the global south, the U.S. citizens’ choice to elect Donald Trump seems like a death sentence. Already we are suffering the effects of climate change after years of inaction by rich countries like the U.S., and with an unhinged climate change denier now in the White House, the relatively small progress made is under threat. The international community must not allow itself to be dragged into a race to the bottom. Other developed countries like Europe, Canada, Australia, and Japan must increase their pledges for pollution cuts and increase their financial support for our communities,” said Wilfred D’Costa from the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development.

“The Paris Agreement was signed and ratified not by a President, but by the United States itself. One man alone, especially in the twenty-first century, should not strip the globe of the climate progress that it has made and should continue to make. As a matter of international law, and as a matter of human survival, the nations of the world can, must, and will hold the United States to its climate commitments. And it’s incumbent upon U.S. communities to unite and push forth progressive climate policies on a state and local level, where federal policy does not reign,” said
Jean Su from California-based Center for Biological Diversity.

“As a young woman and first-time voter I will not tolerate Trump’s denialism of the action needed for climate justice. Our country must undergo a systemic change and just transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy within my lifetime. The next four years are critical for getting on the right pathway, and the disastrous election of Trump serves as a solemn reminder of the path ahead of us. As young people and as climate justice movements we will be demanding real action on climate for the sake of our brothers and sisters around the world and for all future generations,” said Becky Chung from the youth network SustainUS.

“Africa is already burning. The election of Trump is a disaster for our continent. The United States, if it follows through on its new President’s rash words about withdrawing from the international climate regime, will become a pariah state in global efforts for climate action. This is a moment where the rest of the world must not waver and must redouble commitments to tackle dangerous climate change,” said Geoffrey Kamese from Friends of the Earth Africa.

High court rules UK government plans to tackle air pollution are illegal

Court rules for second time in 18 months that the government is not doing enough to combat the national air pollution crisis

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/02/high-court-rules-uk-government-plans-to-tackle-air-pollution-are-illegal

The government’s plan for tackling the UK’s air pollution crisis has been judged illegally poor at the high court, marking the second time in 18 months that ministers have lost in court on the issue.

The defeat is a humiliation for ministers who by law must cut the illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide suffered by dozens of towns and cities in the “shortest possible time”.

Legal NGO ClientEarth, which brought the case, argued that current plans ignore many measures that could help achieve this, placing too much weight on costs. On Wednesday Mr Justice Garnham agreed. He also said ministers knew that over-optimistic pollution modelling was being used, based on flawed lab tests of diesel vehicles rather than actual emissions on the road.

The government said it would not appeal against the decision and agreed in court to discuss with ClientEarth a new timetable for more realistic pollution modelling and the steps needed to bring pollution levels down to legal levels. The parties will return to court in a week but if agreement cannot be reached, the judge could impose a timetable upon the government.

Air pollution causes 50,000 early deaths and £27.5bn in costs every year, according to the government’s own estimates, and was called a “public health emergency” by MPs in April.

James Thornton, CEO of ClientEarth, said: “The time for legal action is over. I challenge Theresa May to take immediate action now to deal with illegal levels of pollution and prevent tens of thousands of additional early deaths in the UK. The high court has ruled that more urgent action must be taken. Britain is watching and waiting, prime minister.”

He said the increased action required would very likely include bigger and tougher clean air zones in more cities and other measure such as scrappage schemes for the dirtiest vehicles: “The government will have to be tougher on diesel.”

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who took part in the case against the government, said: “Today’s ruling lays the blame at the door of the government for its complacency in failing to tackle the problem quickly and credibly. In so doing they have let down millions of people the length and breadth of the country.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “Improving air quality is a priority for this government and we are determined to cut harmful emissions. Our plans have always followed the best available evidence – we have always been clear that we are ready to update them if necessary. Whilst our huge investment in green transport initiatives and plans to introduce clean air zones [in six cities] around the country will help tackle this problem, we accept the court’s judgment. We will now carefully consider this ruling, and our next steps, in detail.”

ClientEarth defeated the government on the same issue at the supreme court in April 2015. Ministers were then ordered to draw up a new action plan, but now that new plan has also been found to be illegal.

Documents revealed during the latest case showed the Treasury had blocked plans to charge diesel cars to enter towns and cities blighted by air pollution, concerned about the political impact of angering motorists. Both the environment and transport departments recommended changes to vehicle excise duty rates to encourage the purchase of low-pollution vehicles, but the Treasury also rejected that idea.

Documents further showed that the government’s plan to bring air pollution down to legal levels by 2020 for some cities and 2025 for London had been chosen because that was the date ministers thought they would face European commission fines, not which they considered “as soon as possible”.

There had been a draft government plan for 16 low emission zones, which polluting vehicles are charged to enter, in cities outside London but the number was cut to just five on cost grounds.

All these proposals will now be revisited. Thornton said a national network of clean air zones needed to be in place by 2018. “If you put in clean air zones, it works overnight.”

Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “We urgently need a new clean air act that restricts the most polluting vehicles from our urban areas and protects everyone’s lung health – air pollution affects all of us.”

Sam Hall, at conservative thinktank Bright Blue, said there should be more power and funding devolved to local authorities to enable all English cities to set up clean air zones and more support for electric cars.

Keith Taylor, Green party MEP, said: “The failure highlighted by the judge today is as much moral as it is legal: ministers have displayed an extremely concerning attitude of indifference towards their duty to safeguard the health of British citizens.

Beijing took a hard line on Hong Kong – that may have backfired

http://www.smh.com.au/world/beijing-took-a-hardline-on-hong-kong–that-may-have-backfired-20160905-gr9f86

In 2014, tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents took to the streets in a defiant challenge to China. They called for full democracy, universal suffrage and the protection of their way of life.

But few spoke of independence — until now.

Two years after the “umbrella revolution” swept Hong Kong, with rising anger about Beijing’s influence in the city, what once was a fringe position has become a nascent political force.

On Sunday, in the first election since the 2014 protests, a record number of Hong Kong voters chose several candidates who either support the idea of independence from China, or have called for far greater autonomy.

According to early results, the new faces include Sixtus Leung, a 30-year-old who has said he supports independence and Nathan Law, a 23-year-old student leader who helped lead the 2014 protests and is calling for a referendum on “self-determination.”

The results will not immediately change Hong Kong’s governance. Only half of the seats of the city’s 70-member legislative council are directly elected through universal suffrage; half are “functional constituencies” that give corporations, associations and chambers of commerce actual votes.

Yet the strong showing by young, pro-independence and pro-democracy candidates means that those critical of Beijing’s influence will maintain the ability to veto policies proposed by the pro-China camp.

And it sends a clear message to Beijing: The battleground may have shifted, but the fight for Hong Kong is on.

Over the past four years, Hong Kong’s political landscape has been radically reshaped.

In 1997, the onetime British colony was returned to Chinese rule under an arrangement known as “one country, two systems.” Hong Kong would maintain certain rights and separate laws for 50 years but would be beholden, ultimately, to Beijing.

In the “two systems” framework, many in Hong Kong saw space for political change. And for the better part of 15 years, the city’s pro-democracy camp worked within the system for that goal.

When people in Hong Kong last voted in legislative elections, in 2012, independence was not on the agenda. But 2014 changed that.

In June of that year, Beijing issued a white paper that confirmed some of the democracy movement’s worst fears about the Chinese government’s plans for Hong Kong. “One country, two systems” does not mean autonomy, it said, but rather “the power to run local affairs as authorised by the central leadership.”

By September, anger about the paper, combined with outrage about the arrest of student leaders, culminated in the peaceful occupation of one of Asia’s financial centres — for 79 days.

But thousands of people sleeping on a major thoroughfare did not secure a single concession from Beijing. And by the time the crowds dispersed and the tent city was torn down, many thought the movement was over.

Perhaps it could have been. But in the years since, Beijing has done little to ease fears. Last winter, five men affiliated with a Hong Kong publishing house that specialises in gossipy books about Chinese leaders disappeared – abducted, it later emerged, by Chinese security forces.

One of the men, Lee Bo, is thought to have been spirited away from a Hong Kong warehouse and smuggled across the border to the Chinese mainland — an act widely considered a violation of “one country, two systems.”

While missing, he sent strange, seemingly scripted letters back to Hong Kong claiming that he was not missing but “assisting with an investigation.” As the farce unfolded, Hong Kong’s government was either unwilling or unable to help.

This and other incidents have fuelled a surge in anti-China sentiment and an interest in the idea of independence, especially among the young. Rather than address that anger, though, the government has tried to outlaw it.

In July, Hong Kong’s election commission said candidates in the legislative election had to sign a pledge accepting three clauses in the city’s mini-constitution, known as the Basic Law, that say Hong Kong is part of China. Six candidates were later barred from running because of their views.

In August, Hong Kong teachers were warned that they could lose their qualifications if they advocated independence in schools.

Hong Kong’s leader, Leung Chun-ying, said that the city’s teachers should stop students from talking about independence – just as they stop them from doing drugs. Another official, Fanny Law, said on the radio that the topic is simply “too complicated” for school.

The interest does not mean that independence is likely, but it suggests how hard it will be for China’s leaders to win hearts and minds as the gap between Beijing and Hong Kong seems to grow.

In a poll published in July by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, about 17 percent of 1,010 Hong Kongers surveyed said they support independence after 2047. The survey found that less than four per cent thought independence was possible.

In Beijing’s eyes, of course, it is absolutely not an option. In May, a top Communist Party official, Zhang Dejiang, dismissed independence out of hand, warning Hong Kong against moves to “resist the central government.”

MPs call for evidence on post-Brexit environment strategy

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has set a September deadline for the new Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (EU) David Davis, and new Minister for the Environment Therese Coffey to reveal how they plan to handle environmental policies during exit negotiations.

http://www.edie.net/news/11/MPs-call-for-evidence-on-post-Brexit-environment-strategy/

A letter from Labour MP and EAC chair Mary Creagh has called on the two ministers to deliver oral evidence at House’s September sitting as to how negotiating a deal to leave the EU will impact environmental policies such as air quality, water pollution and waste management.

“The Committee is particularly concerned and wishes to seek reassurance about the Government’s plans for the large proportion of UK environmental law that originated from EU level, the Government’s approach to ongoing negotiations around EU measures such as the Circular Economy Package and how the Government intends to maintain the benefits of transnational cooperation on environmental issues such as climate change,” Creagh said in the letter.

In the letter, which arrived just weeks after an inquiry on how Brexit would affect UK climate policy was launched, Creagh noted that the EU had implemented a “widespread impact on the environment” with many of the legislative measures covering the environment and climate change established at EU level.

Creagh also alluded to recent ONS figures, which show that the UK’s low-carbon and renewables economy was worth £46.2bn and supported nearly 250,000 jobs, as a reason why there are concerns that the Government may “deprioritise the issue”.

The letter claimed that business investors required “stability” and that the Brexit strategy should provide evidence on how the UK plans to tackle its worsening air quality levels and its “poor quality” water sites. A blueprint should also be provided on how the UK plants to improve biodiversity protection, which is likely to be secured through a new €12m MoorLIFE 2020 project.

The letter also calls on the ministers to provide evidence on how any policy changes or amendments would secure the current platform that has allowed the UK to “show global leadership on climate change”. Last month, former Energy Secretary Amber Rudd reassured delegates at the Business and Climate Summit that post-Brexit Britain would not step back from climate leadership.

Commenting on the letter, Friends of the Earth Campaigner Sam Lowe said: “It is essential that the government upholds current EU protections for our nature and wildlife and looks to improve them. With over 70% of our environmental laws coming from Europe, the government must urgently clarify its intent to create UK rules which will fully protect our environment.

“The government must also make sure that existing laws continue to be enforced throughout the negotiation period and that weakened protection for our environment doesn’t become a by-product of Brexit uncertainty.”

Circular Economy

The Circular Economy Package – which includes 65% recycling targets, tools to halve food waste by 2030, and measures to promote reparability in the design phase of products – has been one of the biggest areas of uncertainty surrounding the UK’s ability to trade products outside of a Member State status.

Speaking exclusively at edie’s Resource Revolution event earlier this month, chair of the UK’s Circular Economy Taskforce Sue Armstrong-Brown said the only way for Britain to open up trading streams with the EU after it leaves the bloc will be to create much more recyclable, repairable and reusable products and services. However, there are concerns that Brexit could lead to the collapse of the UK’s plateauing recycling rates.

Matt Mace

MPS WORRIED ABOUT ENVIRONMENT’S POSITION IN BREXIT NEGOTIATIONS

http://resource.co/article/mps-worried-about-environments-position-brexit-negotiations-11269

MPs have expressed their concern at the future of EU-derived environmental policy in the government’s Brexit negotiations and have asked members of the government to clarify their position.

Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), wrote to Brexit Secretary David Davis and new Environment minister Therese Coffey to seeks assurances about plans for the large proportion of UK environmental law that originates from the EU.

Following a public inquiry completed earlier this year, the EAC concluded that the EU had been ‘crucial’ in shaping British environmental policy and helping the UK lose its moniker as ‘the dirty man of Europe’.

Davies was given the new role Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union during Theresa May’s governmental reshuffle earlier this month, which also saw Coffey join the Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), replacing Resources Minister Rory Stewart, though her role at the department has yet to be formally confirmed.

Reassurances sought

Both ministers have been invited by Creagh to provide oral evidence to the EAC when Parliament reconvenes in September to explain how the government intends to approach environmental issues during the Brexit negotiations.

In particular the committee wants to hear about plans for the environmental law that was derived from the EU and the government’s approach to EU-wide initiatives like the Circular Economy Package, which is seeking to facilitate a more resource-efficient way of life and is currently working its way around the European institutions for ratification.

Ministers from Defra told the inquiry that little had been planned for the eventuality that Britain might vote to leave the EU prior to the referendum in June, but did warn that a vote to leave would trigger a ‘long and tortuous negotiation’ over environmental laws and industries.

Creagh’s letter reads: ‘There are few areas of government policy where the decision to leave the European Union will have a more widespread impact than the environment.

‘Britain’s membership of the EU has been crucial to the improvement of UK air quality, the cleaning up of water pollution, the management of waste, and the protection of biodiversity. It has given us a platform on which we can show global leadership in tackling climate change.’

The EAC’s report stated that EU membership has ensured that environmental action in the UK has been taken on a faster timetable, and ‘if the UK were free to set its own environmental standards, it would set them at a less stringent level than has been imposed by the EU’. It also pointed to the lack of air pollution action taken prior to EU air quality limits.

Creagh continued: ‘My Committee believes the government should, as a minimum, commit to maintaining in law the existing level of environmental protection currently guaranteed by EU law.’

One of the main worries of the majority of the waste and resources industry prior to the referendum was what impact Brexit would have on investment in infrastructure, both in the long and short term.

Creagh, who was a vocal campaigner to remain in the EU, wrote: ‘Businesses and investors will be looking for stability at this time. It is crucial that the Government demonstrates its commitment to environmental protection at an early stage in the exit negotiations…

‘We would like to know what enforcement mechanisms and changes to regulatory regimes are planned.’