Environment Agency tests EMS+

17th May 2011


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  • Environment agencies ,
  • Auditing ,
  • EMS ,
  • Business & Industry

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IEMA

The cement, food and drink, and waste sectors will pilot a new approach to site regulation over the next few months that could lead to more organisations adopting ISO 14001 certified environmental management systems (EMS).

Under the plans, being developed by the Environment Agency (EA), third-party auditors will assess a site against a compliance protocol drawn up by the EA. The agency will review the outcome, and sites that show good regulatory performance will be able to opt for a much-reduced inspection regime.

The aim of the scheme, being branded as EMS+, is to reduce regulatory inspections of sites with a good compliance classification score and which are already subject to third-party auditing of their EMS. It should mean lower charges and fewer visits for sites taking part in the voluntary scheme.

The cement industry welcomed the initiative. “As a sector we’re very pleased with the development of EMS+. It builds on the agency’s existing cement sector plan which seeks to improve the industry’s environmental management and performance,” says Dave Shenton, national environment manager at Lafarge Cement UK.

He also believes the scheme will enhance the credibility of the EMAS-registered environmental management system at Lafarge and be a better use of resources. “EMS+ will be a more effective use of everyone’s time,” he says.

Martin Baxter, policy director at IEMA, hopes the scheme will increase the attraction of 14001 certified environmental management systems. “An accredited EMS certificate will be the entry point to lower EA fees and charges. Companies may have to pay certification bodies more, but they will reap enhanced benefits from having an EMS,” he says.

The agency aims to have the auditing protocol ready by the end of May, with the training of auditors scheduled for June. The pilots will start in July.

The government hopes EMS+ will enable the agency – which has seen its budget for permitting work cut by 6% this year, and faces a potential further 16% reduction by 2014/15 – to focus its diminishing resources on poor performers.

It also feeds into the government’s ongoing review of red tape, which has taken a new twist following the decision to include all 278 existing environmental regulations in a public evaluation process. The “red-tape challenge” from the Cabinet Office provides an opportunity for interested parties to say which regulations should stay, be merged, or scrapped.

The inclusion of environmental regulations such as the Clean Air Act and the Climate Change Act has provoked uproar among environmentalists.

Green MP Caroline Lucas described the initiative as “insidious”, and said it was an attempt by the government to undermine the very principles of environmental protection.

Adrian Wilkes, chair of the Environmental Industries Commission, said it is dangerously misguided and posed a potentially major threat to the UK’s environmental industry. Defra, however, said there are no plans to remove important environmental protections.

The move comes as the first results of the GLOBE climate legislation study were unveiled. It finds that legislation is being advanced, to varying degrees, in all 16 study countries, with the most climate-change-related laws in the UK (22), and the fewest in South Africa (3).

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