Green regulation threatened by red tape challenge

12th April 2011

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The development of much-needed environmental legislation could be under threat by the UK government's pledge to reduce regulation, according to industry experts.

The launch of the government’s so-called Red Tape Challenge has been followed by claims that it is weakening its pledge to introduce mandatory greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reporting for businesses, and that it could handicap the UK’s ability to tackle climate change and its competitiveness in becoming a low-carbon economy.

Peter Young, chair of the Aldersgate Group, an alliance of businesses and organisations that believe future economic growth is inextricably linked to environmental standards, said: “The government’s approach to reducing regulation is simply asking how a department can cut without regard to its function and whether its regulations are of good or bad quality.

“It doesn’t consider the bigger picture and see that regulations are the really good tools with which to address the climate change and environment challenges we are facing.

“Furthermore, the approach is creating a greater barrier to new UK regulation, one of the main benefits of which is, of course, creating a competitive advantage for the country in respect to our European neighbours.”

Over the coming months the red tape challenge is asking businesses and the public to comment on the usefulness of regulations covering industry sectors including retail, transportation, fisheries and manufacturing. The rules will come from six areas of law including environment, health and safety and employment law.

According to reports in the Financial Times one of the consequences of the government’s promise to reduce red tape has been Defra’s reluctance to push ahead with a consultation on the introduction mandatory GHG reporting, which has now been delayed until May.

“It is a myth that businesses in general are against mandatory reporting. Both the CBI and the Carbon Disclosure Project are openly in favour of it ensuring there is a good fit with current reporting requirements,” said Young.

“The delay is due to the political difficulty Defra has with creating a new regulation at a time where the government is trying to give a message of cutting red tape. However, businesses really support the idea of one mandatory framework rather than the current miscellaneous group of voluntary and regulatory requirements.“The problem is that those people who are more remote from the issue of carbon reporting take the erroneous view that because this is a new regulation it must be adding to businesses’ burden. And that’s a huge frustration because those that understand the detail, see this as a part of the streamlining agenda as well as giving significant environmental benefits.”

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