Cutting environmental red tape stalling green economy, UK warned

Posted at May 22, 2012 » By : » Categories : News » Comments Off on Cutting environmental red tape stalling green economy, UK warned

The UK government’s plans to cut environmental red tape could stall the country’s green economy, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) warned today.

In a report out today, the Committee says that plans to ‘rationalise’ the UK’s environmental regulations “must not be a smokescreen for relaxing rules to protect health, countryside or wildlife in a short-term pursuit of growth”.

The Coalition has promised to simplify the 10,000 pages of environmental regulation as part of its ‘Red Tape Challenge’, to reduce the burden on businesses. The government argues that many pieces of legislation are obsolete or duplicated.

But in a scathing attack, the Committee accuses the Treasury of viewing environmental legislation as a cost or barrier to economic development instead of an opportunity.

“The Treasury seems to see environmental regulations as nothing more than costly red-tape, but what we are talking about here are vital laws to give us clean air, safe food, and a thriving countryside,” says Committee chair Joan Walley.

The Committee would support measures that cut bureaucracy while improving outcomes but warns it would be irresponsible to get rid of sensible regulations in a “desperate dash for growth”.

The report warns that the government’s strategy for a green economy relies too heavily on voluntary action and does not set clear milestones for businesses to achieve.

“The government promised a roadmap to a green economy, but two years in it seems to have stalled and we risk slipping back to business-as-usual,” says Walley. “It is incredibly short-sighted of the Treasury not to give businesses clear incentives to use resources in a smarter way.”

Walley criticises, in particular, the government’s failure to introduce mandatory carbon reporting, for which a number of big businesses are also calling.

“Making businesses report their carbon emissions is one of the first steps we need to take on the road to a green economy, so it will be a key test of this government’s green credentials,” she says.

The government needs to take a long-term view and set out a clear definition of a green economy, developing minimum sustainability standards with businesses and stakeholders, says the report.

Targets should be set for improving the state of the environment, says the Committee, and greater consideration needs to be given to improving the green economy in future Budgets.

“Out of the ashes of the financial crisis we need to rebuild an economy that enhances human well-being, protects the natural world and delivers food and energy security for the future,” concludes Walley.

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Related stories:
UK needs local carbon plans, says Climate Committee (17-May)
UK government “papering over cracks of broken energy system” (12-Apr)
Revised UK planning rules promise greater simplicity with sustainability (28-Mar)
‘Greenest ever’ government cuts environmental red tape (20-Mar)

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