Monday 20 May 2013

Balance of Competences - an audit of what the EU does, and how this affects the UK

I recently received this important and potentially worrying blog written by Joan Edwards, the Head of Living Seas in the Wildlife Trusts National Office so simply reproduce it here as I believe there will be many in Sussex who will be interested:

The UK Government has just launched its review into EU environment and climate change regulation. This forms part of a review of the Balance of Competences between the UK and the EU - an audit of what the EU does, and how this affects the UK.

European legislation helps us to manage common resources such as our climate and has brought in policies to help improve our water and air quality.  It has provided strong protection of our habitats and species, especially at sea where national legislation is lagging far behind and, recently, has stalled again (see my recent blog on this).

In many cases, EU policy has led the way, resulting in far more stringent legislation, including the bathing water directive, habitats and birds directive and the air quality directive than may well have been in place if we had relied on national policy.

There are areas where these EU policies can be improved, and certainly areas where guidance and information about the regulations could be made clearer and more accessible. However, what is clear is that many of the decisions we take about the environment have huge impacts, not just nationally but internationally as well. For instance air and water quality can have impacts that are more far reaching than national boundaries and decisions on the quota of fish that we take from our seas clearly affect many nations. One of the biggest challenges facing us at the moment, climate change, cannot be tackled at a national level alone. We need to work in collaboration with neighbouring countries, and wider to ensure that decisions taken have the biggest impact.

From The Wildlife Trusts point of view, what is clear is that we need to continue to make the case for the importance of protecting and improving our environment. Our environment provides us with vital services that underpin our economy. We will robustly respond to this review, to highlight the importance of environmental legislation. We need to ensure that short term economic aims do not end up undermining our environment and ultimately, our economic future.

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