In May 2022, IEEP announced an enhanced focus on UK environmental policy and the appointment of a new Director. The Institute hopes to play an increased role in the analysis, reflection and debate that will accompany the changes induced by Brexit.
Having now left the European Union, the UK is gradually modifying aspects of its environmental policy and law and developing new governance arrangements. This is occurring in the context of very extensive devolution of powers over environmental and agricultural law to the four nations within the UK – England, Northern Ireland, Scotland & Wales. It has been a period of extensive change, establishing foundations and new approaches with potentially long-term consequences. Amendments are being made to EU-derived environmental laws that have been on the UK Statute book for over 50 years of membership and further change is expected.
The UK Government has stressed the opportunity to be bolder with their environmental ambitions, to make policies and laws more tailored to the UK context and be a world leader in environment and sustainability policy. At the same time policy goals to reduce legislative burdens and adopt more flexible approaches are becoming more prominent, with potential environmental consequences.
IEEP’s priority in the UK is to engage in depth with elements of this new framework and policy architecture, to influence policy change in the UK as well as opportunities for future policy design and cooperation between the EU and UK. As well as engaging on specific thematic-based policy of importance to IEEP like on water, waste, climate, air, nature and biodiversity and chemicals, its long-term priorities are:
- Analysing and influencing the new forms of environmental governance systems in the UK and key items of legislation, including the Environment Act and Internal Market Act, the Agriculture Act, development of the Office of Environmental Protection and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU.
- Analysing the impact of regulatory divergence between the United Kingdom and the European Union as well as within the UK itself.
- Working with partners to assess the risks and opportunities associated with the twin UK Government ambitions of high standards for domestic agriculture and land management in the UK and the emerging trade policy and a rapid programme of new Free Trade Agreements.
Divergence in environmental policy post Brexit
The way in which environmental legislation is developed, agreed and then implemented in the UK has changed fundamentally since Brexit. The full consequences of Brexit for environmental policy and law are too early to judge but unquestionably the first signs of divergence are occurring and this merits close attention.
With the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, as each side goes its separate ways, there is the potential for environmental law and policy to diverge. This will have a range of implications, not least for the protection of health and the environment. Whether this is a matter of any concern, or perhaps a new opportunity, may not be immediately obvious.
Some initial reflections…
IEEP UK has produced a paper with some early reflections on why this is a topic of interest meriting scrutiny. Different elements of divergence are explored in an elementary typology, leading to a consideration of some of the kinds of divergence that are beginning to emerge between the EU and the UK.
Event | Divergence in EU/UK Biodiversity Targets
To date, the EU has agreed a set of non-binding biodiversity objectives and actions in its Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. Central to this is a new nature restoration Regulation (Restoration Law) proposed by the European Commission with legally binding restoration targets for ecosystems habitats and species. Within the UK, consultations have been conducted on proposed legally binding biodiversity targets in England, and on non-binding targets in Northern Ireland. Targets are being developed in Scotland and Wales, which are to be legally binding in Scotland, and have been recommended to be in Wales.
This event examined and discussed emerging biodiversity targets within the EU and UK. An expert panel will offered perspectives from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Followed by a general, open audience discussion on the main and potential areas of divergence as well as the implications of this going forward.
UK/EU divergence in environmental regulation: The case of the EU Industrial Emissions Directive
The 2010 EU Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) is one of the cornerstones of pollution control in the EU establishing a regulatory regime covering industrial activities that may cause pollution (to air, water and waste). The European Commission is proposing to amend the directive, which may cause legal divergence between the EU and UK. However, it is important to consider how industry is regulated in practice beyond the legal texts and compare this in the UK and in different EU member states.
Strongly influenced by UK policy and practice, the IED, adopted in 2010, was a revision of the earlier 1996 Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive (IPPC). In April 2022, the European Commission proposed to amend the IED once again but what does this mean for industrial pollution control in the UK post Brexit?
If the proposal is adopted and becomes EU law, then there will be divergence from the law continuing to apply in the UK. The proposal sets out some specific changes such as on the manufacture of batteries for electric vehicles, on intensive livestock units on farms and enforcement approaches.
This paper discusses the potential implications of these changes alongside the evolving policy landscape in the UK. It also considers the development of conclusions on Best Available Techniques and the introduction of lifecycle environmental performance of supply chains into IED which has been an element of UK policy and practice for some time already. Further, it explores the fact that much activity by regulators is not explicitly set out in the directive and comparisons between the UK and EU need to take this into account.