89% believe efforts to halt and reverse UK biodiversity loss are best addressed within or aligned to EU policy frameworks

Results from a poll carried out this weekamong IEMA’s UK members reveal concern about the way environmental issues could be addressed as part of infrastructure decision making if the UK leaves Europe. Two thirds believe the way that environmental issues are taken into account in infrastructure decision making would be reduced or removed altogether.

Half of respondents say opportunities for the public and communities to engage in the decision making process on new infrastructure proposals that would potentially affect them would be reduced outside the EU. 43% think current engagement processes would be retained, with only 7% saying it would be enhanced.

Almost 1,200 members responded to the second of IEMA’s online polls to test views on different aspects of UK/EU environmental policy one month ahead of the EU Referendum on 23rd June. The majority of respondents (81%) believe that European laws and regulations are important in providing them with a framework for being able to deliver environmental protection and improvements.

Martin Baxter, IEMA’s Chief Policy Advisor said: “Environment and Sustainability Professionals recognise the importance of EU policy and regulation in helping to drive environmental improvements. Whichever way the vote goes, it is essential that environmental issues continue to be factored into infrastructure decision making and that those potentially affected are given opportunities to participate.”

Biodiversity

Overall, the vast majority (93%) believe that efforts to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity in the UK are best addressed within (80%) or aligned to (13%) EU policy frameworks. 7% think this is best addressed by UK policy being separate and outside of EU policy regimes. If the UK were to leave the EU, 60% believe that there will be a lower level of legal protection for wildlife and habitats.

In recent years, the Common Agricultural Policy has increased environmental management and protection requirements linked to payment support to farmers. 69% of respondents who expressed a view believe environmental requirements associated with payments to support UK farmers would most likely be reduced or removed, if the UK votes to leave the EU.

Impact Assessment

The EU Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) directive was amended in 2014 to bring in new requirements to harmonise EIA between EU Member States, streamline the process to reduce burden, and introduce basic quality requirements across the EU. Of those involved in EIA, 80% believe that the EIA Directive has enhanced the way that environmental issues are factored into development consent decisions for major infrastructure projects.

Respondents were clear when asked about who should be covered by “competent experts” cited in the amended EIA directive:

  • 61% believe that the EIA co-ordinator and the lead on each environmental topic area (e.g. ecology, air quality) should demonstrate they are a “competent expert”;
  • 8% believe it should be limited to just the EIA co-ordinator having to demonstrate they are a “competent expert”;
  • 31% believe that everyone making a contribution to the EIA process should demonstrate that they are a “competent expert”.

IEMA provides the majority of EIA related CPD in the UK and runs the individual EIA register and the EIA Quality Mark scheme (for organisations that co-ordinate UK EIA). Given the new requirement for EIA Reports to be produced by “competent experts”, of respondents who expressed a view:

  • 64% believe this should be a member of any relevant professional body with sufficient EIA expertise
  • 19% believe only IEMA members who can demonstrate sufficient EIA experience and expertise should be considered to be competent experts for UK EIA
  • 10% believe only IEMA members who are registered on the individual EIA Register should be considered to be “competent experts” for UK EIA
  • 7% believe anyone with CEnv status should be considered as being a “competent expert” to undertake EIAs

The European Commission is currently reviewing the Strategic Environmental Assessment directive to determine whether it requires amendment /updating since it was published in 2001. 75% of those who expressed a view of the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive’s progress in the UK since its transposition in 2004 believe that it should be amended.