More consistency needed over EU rules, says IEMA

15th August 2013

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Environmental legislation at the EU level is "essential" in the single market, says IEMA, but the different ways member states implement rules can increase costs for businesses

Legislating to deal with the costs of environment damage and pollution is best dealt with at the European level, confirms IEMA in its response to the government’s consultation on the balance of power between UK and EU policymakers.

The Institute concludes that within the European single market it is “essential” for the environment to be integrated into economic decision making at the EU-level to ensure a level playing field for businesses across the bloc.

“Given the strong links between the environment and economy… mechanisms to address market failures [such as the emissions trading system] are, in the first instance, best addressed at the EU level,” it states.

Despite being in favour of EU environmental regulation, the Institute highlights potential problems with overlapping policies, saying that legislation relating to hazardous materials, for example, is placing additional burdens on businesses.

IEMA also says that the different ways in which member states implement EU rules can create inconsistencies and make compliance difficult for organisations operating across national borders. The Institute cites the different approaches being taken by authorities in England and the Scotland in applying the Water Framework Directive, as a key example.

“The application of the ‘subsidiarity’ principle can have the effect of creating additional costs and uncertainty for business,” states the Institute. “This is particularly noticeable for those businesses that operate across multiple countries.”

IEMA also argues that the UK government must do more to ensure it is involved in EU policymaking and the development of standards detailing environmental performance requirements for products and management systems standards, such as ISO 14001.

“The UK government’s lack of engagement in the standards making process at a national level leaves it without a voice in the development of policy implementation at the European level,” the response warns.

Martin Baxter, IEMA’s executive director of policy, explained: “European and international environmental standards are increasing being used by the commission to support environment and climate change policy outcomes.

“It is essential that Defra and Decc play an active role in the standards development process to influence how policy is implemented.”

IEMA also argues that EU legislation and policies could be better implemented if there was a greater understanding of the environment and its importance among politicians.

“For many areas of environmental policy, significant improvements can be achieved through people who apply appropriate environmental skills and competence,” said Baxter.

“However, this rarely forms the basis of implementation plans at national and European level. A more structured approach to embedding skills provision in the delivery of European environment and climate change policy is urgently required.”

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