Policy update: Balancing competence

6th September 2013

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Martin Baxter, IEMA's executive director of policy, on IEMA's response to the government consultation on the balance of competence between UK and EU policymakers

The government’s review of the balance of competence between the UK and EU raises questions on where power should lie for developing environment and climate change policy and legislation. The environment, and the natural resources and ecosystems services it provides, underpins economic activity.

While there has long been recognition of the impact of economic activity on the environment, there is growing evidence to show the environment will constrain economic activity in future.

To ensure the effective functioning of the European single market, it is essential that the costs of environmental damage and pollution are internalised in economic decision making, providing a level playing field through the application of the “polluter-pays” principle.

Given the strong links between the environment and the economy, mechanisms to address market failure are, in the first instance, best addressed at the European level.

For many, the debate is less about the balance between EU and UK decision making and more about consistency of implementation.

As highlighted in IEMA’s official response to the government consultation, there is not just inconsistency between member states but also the between UK’s devolved administrations – which are taking different approaches in implementing the water framework directive, for example.

In many areas of environment policy, significant improvements can be achieved through the application of appropriate skills and competence.

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


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