Standing Up to Fracking in the EU

The UK government remains set on “going all out for shale”, offering the industry favourable tax treatment, and allowing for fracking to take place under national parks and people’s homes, despite growing public concern. At the European level, the UK government has found some support from Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to make the case for shale gas, as they view fracking as a way to create energy security independence from Russia. But there is a huge and growing anti-fracking movement across Europe, and this is increasingly translating into political opposition too.

Environmental and public health concerns, including air pollution and gas leaks, water contamination and scarcity, increased radioactive and seismic activity, and biodiversity loss, are just some of the reasons for this. Not to mention climate change obligations, which are incompatible with a new dash for gas. The European Environmental Impact Assessment Directive already covers shale gas, and the European Commission has recently launched infringement procedures against Poland for not following these rules correctly, showing it is prepared to take action.

Fracking demoIn 2013, as the European Commission prepared proposals for the 2030 climate change targets, there were plans to introduce specific EU legislation covering the shale gas industry. But the UK government led lobbying efforts for no new environmental or public health safeguards, saying the Commission should just clarify the existing legal framework for the industry and help with the exchange of best practice among member states. Following these lobbying efforts, the European Commission came forward with a non-binding Recommendation rather than a Directive on fracking. It also published a Communication and an Impact Assessment, and has been drawing up a reference document on the exchange of best available techniques and risk management for the hydrocarbons sector (BREF).

The UK government has even lobbied, alongside fossil fuel giants including BP, Chevron, Shell and ExxonMobil, for the withdrawal of this BREF document, having previously claimed it was in favour of exchanging best practice. Despite this, the Commission still plans to publish the document by May 2018. While the European Commission’s Recommendation on Fracking is non-binding, and the Communication takes note that there are gaps in EU law when it comes to unconventional hydrocarbons, the Commission has made clear in a previous legal assessment that existing EU environmental legislation does apply to fracking practices from planning to cessation.

The fracking industry is also covered by EU rules when it comes to the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals under the REACH Regulation. And in 2015, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) added a new use category for “oil and gas field fracturing products” to chemical registrations to help increase transparency in the disclosure of the composition of fracking fluid. The UK has made every effort to water down EU legislation on fracking, while also pursuing deregulation at home, cutting environmental, planning and public health safeguards. In this context, existing safeguards from Europe remain an important check on the fracking industry. If the UK leaves the EU, it will be left to this Government to regulate the industry without European oversight.

In a 2015 Eurobarometer, which surveyed 12 EU regions where shale gas exploitation has been permitted or planned, the European public made clear that they were not satisfied with non-binding recommendations, with respondents declaring that the least preferred approach. As Green MEPs we will continue to lobby alongside our colleagues in the Greens / European Free Alliance group for the EU to do more. In February, we supported a successful amendment to a report in plenary that urged Member States to follow the precautionary principle and not authorise any new hydraulic fracturing operations in the EU.

This demonstrates clearly that as a part the EU we can work with the growing movement across Europe that is opposing the corporate interests of the shale gas industry, retain the existing safeguards of EU legislation while pushing for more protection, and work together in the European Parliament to stand up for our environment, public health, and climate. I posed the question this week on the radio: why would we throw that away?

Holidaying in the EU

Sometimes, it’s the little things in life that matter. Over 29 million holidays are made by UK tourists to other EU countries each year, a whopping 76% of holidays taken. Meanwhile, 68% of business trips from the UK are to EU countries and 44% of UK inbound tourism spending is by EU nationals.

ABTA recently published a new report outlining what a vote to leave the EU might mean for the UK travel industry and consumers. They say continued EU membership benefits UK travellers in many ways…

Bournemouth

Cleaner Beaches. The 1976 Bathing Water Directive, required member states to designate bathing waters and ensure they were clean for public use. The UK was slow to respond, but by 1993 the EU had won a legal battle that forced the UK to ensure it keeps its beaches safe. By 2014 there were 632 designated bathing waters in the UK, and 98.9 per cent met the standards detailed in the EU’s Directive, which had been further strengthened by that time. The same rules apply across Europe, meaning safer beaches wherever we go in the EU.

Compensation for delays. The EU has ensured that a range of passenger rights regulations across all modes of travel have made it into law in member-states. The best-known of these is regulation 261/2004 for compensation in cases of denied boarding or significant delays for air travel.

Free Health Cover. The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is available to all EU residents and guarantees the holder access to local health services in any EU country on the same terms as available to local people. EHIC arrangements currently apply to all EU and European Economic Area countries. In the event of Brexit, ongoing involvement would be subject to negotiation. If UK travellers’ access to local health care was limited this would have an impact on travel insurance premiums.

Cheaper roaming fees. The European Parliament recently agreed a cap on mobile phone roaming charges, harmonising the maximum charges applicable to consumers for using their phones in other EU countries. This will be extended to a complete ban on additional roaming fees across the EU in April 2017. As an EU Regulation (531/2012), the law applying these rules would be removed by a British exit.

Financial Protection. The Package Travel Directive ensures that when you book a package tour within the EU, you have consumer protection in cases of insolvency or where there is a failure to perform contracted services. Negotiations would be required to ensure such reciprocal arrangements could remain in place if the UK was to leave the EU.

More routes and airline competition. The EU’s aviation industry is one of the most liberalised in the world, and while this is not good news for climate change, it has resulted in more routes, more airlines, greater competition and lower fares for consumers. The EU has also negotiated ‘Open Skies’ agreements, which are bilateral agreements with EU countries acting together to agree rules with countries outside the EU. The best known is the EU-US Open Skies agreement (2007).

Border Free Travel. While the UK retains control of its own borders and sits outside the border-free Schengen zone, UK consumers are able to travel freely within much of continental Europe and EU citizens only experience simple border checks when entering the UK. For travel outside of the EU, the UK would be able to seek new bilateral visa agreements with non-EU countries but these would take time to negotiate.

Freedom to work. Under current arrangements, UK citizens have the right to work in any country in the European Economic Area (EEA) without a permit. This includes all countries in the EU as well as in Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Under EU rules, UK workers have the same rights as nationals of the country they are working in when it comes to conditions at work, pay and social security. In 2014, 27% of UK emigrants who migrated to another EU country did so for work-related reasons.Molly Language School

Freedom to Study. The Erasmus+ programme allows more than 10,000 British students to study abroad each year. Since the scheme started, more than 200,000 British students have spent time at another European university, learning about another culture and expanding their horizons through exchange travel.

Bringing home unlimited goods. Currently you are not required to pay duty on goods you bring into the UK from the EU as long as you transport them and will use them yourself, or plan to give them as a gift, and have paid any relevant duty in the country where you bought them. If the UK leaves the EU the days of the booze cruise to France could be well and truly over!

And don’t forget, your UK driving licence is also valid across the European Union. People often say the EU is out of touch, but it’s things that make everyday life easier that typically go unnoticed.

Peace and Nation building through the EU

“The Union’s aim is to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples.” This is the first point in Article 3 of the Lisbon Treaty, setting out the aims of the European Union. Those in favour of Brexit suggest that democracies simply do not go to war with each other, but they don’t recognise that the EU has been central to ensuring the peaceful transition to those democracies across our continent.

This week we celebrated Europe Day (9th), marking the famous Schuman declaration in 1950 that set out a vision for Europe that would make war on our continent “not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.” Since then, and with the UK playing an important role since joining in 1973, the EU has been performing a vital purpose that other organisations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) cannot – democratic nation building.

To be considered for EU membership, European countries must meet certain criteria. The EU accession process is completely different from NATO requirements for membership, with candidate countries wishing to join the EU requiring progressive democratic reform of the constitution, public administration, and much more. The impact and following through of these reforms are monitored by experts in the candidate countries, as well as in Brussels and elsewhere. Today, we take for granted the successes of this process. We’ve seen countries under previous dictatorships or authoritarian rule transitioning to democracies that enshrine human rights, the rule of law, and the right of every citizen to vote. With its enlargement in the 1980s to Greece, Spain and Portugal; the European Union consolidated democracy in these former fascist dictatorships. The later enlargements in 2004 and 2007 also saw us secure democracy in 10 former communist countries following the fall of the Berlin Wall.

“Arguably one of the greatest recent successes has been the brokering of peace between Kosovo and Serbia. In 2013, the EU brokered the Brussels Agreement on the normalisation of relations between the two countries, which had previously had a tense relationship ever since the Kosovo war in 1999, with Serbia up until this agreement failing to respect Kosovo’s independence. Both nations see the EU as a common focal point to work towards, allowing the EU to bring them together and reconcile their differences that had existed since the Yugoslav wars. And since 2008 the EU has also maintained a Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, further helping this young country’s democratic transition. In recognition of our recent history, the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012, and the Norwegian Nobel Committee said its decision was based on the stabilising role the EU has played in transforming most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace. In a time when far right populism is increasing in some states, and with climate change predicted to exacerbate future crises across the globe, pulling out of arguably the world’s most successful peace project would put Britain on the wrong side of history.

Twenty-eight countries sharing sovereignty for the betterment of all their citizens – that’s what we can use as the best weapon against todays creeping Nationalism. That’s part of the European Union winning the Nobel Peace Prize, and that’s what we’re fighting for on 23rd June.

Beware of Etonians Bearing Pasties

This week we have witnessed the worst kind of political theatre with the arrival of the Boris Battle Bus in Cornwall. Boris wasted no time in adopting the symbols of the holidaymaker: the pasty and the ice cream. Only the knotted handkerchief and rolled up trousers were absent. This is not patriotism, it is patronising; using the people of Cornwall as a backdrop for political opportunism. As has been pointed out, Boris was able to brandish his Cornish Cornish pasty because the EU offers this product protected status. Given the fact most Brexiteers favour a market free-for-all, we could end up with fake pasties from the US filled with hormone fed beef, or from Asia with horsemeat.

But tourists to Cornwall and the many businesses serving them have benefited from EU regulations. In the 1970s we used to pump our untreated sewage straight into the sea. EU regulations – in particular the Bathing Water Directive – have forced the UK to clean up its act. Now over 95% of our beaches have sea water that is clean enough to swim in [1]. It will escape few that coastal and marine litter is also a huge environmental problem. Here again EU regulations are helping. Campaign group Surfers against Sewage say the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive is currently the strongest and potentially the most effective legal tool to help reduce levels of marine litter.
Before Boris stepped off the bus or uttered a word, his grand Brexit deception had already begun. Daubed across his shiny red vehicle is the slogan: We send £350 million a week to the EU, lets fund our NHS instead. This is deceptive in two senses. Firstly, the actual net figure, when the rebate the EU sends to UK is taken into account, is around £120 million a week [2]. This works out at roughly £236 per household per year, or £4.50 a week. When you consider that most of this rebate is spent on farming and regional aid – helping regions like Cornwall in particular – what we pay the EU actually looks like money well spent. Cornwall is also scheduled to receive over half a billion pounds from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and European Social Fund (ESF) between 2014 and 2020. These funds aim to reduce regional disparities in income, wealth and increase economic opportunities.

As to claims about funding the NHS instead of sending money to the EU, Arron Banks, Leave campaigner, has stated publically that he wants to privatise the NHS. I would also urge people to listen to the views of junior doctors, nurses and others working in the NHS about the Tories commitment to the NHS rather than to Boris.

Meanwhile Boris’ government is destroying Cornwall’s economic opportunities through its attacks on renewables. A report I commissioned last year concluded that through a combination of wind, solar, wave and geothermal energy, Cornwall has the potential to generate 161% of its energy needs [3]. The region has the greatest potential for renewables energy of any region in the UK and could become a powerhouse for the South West. All that holds us back is a lack of political will and a pro nuclear and pro fossil fuels ideological obsession. This is having a hugely damaging effect on investment in the clean green industries which we need for a sustainable future.

I hope the good people of Cornwall will realise they have been thoroughly exploited by Boris’ whirlwind visit. Ultimately, the Boris Battle Bus has only one destination in mind. Boris is hoping to use Brexit as a route to becoming the next Prime Minister. Don’t be fooled. Don’t be used as a backdrop for somebody else’s electioneering. On 23rd June, make the choice that works best for Cornwall.

[1] https://www.foe.co.uk/blog/what-has-eu-done-uk-beaches
[2] http://infacts.org/uk-doesnt-send-eu-350m-a-week-or-55m-a-day/
[3] http://mollymep.org.uk/publications/reports/

Leaving the EU: the View from Green Business

We are delighted to share this guest post from Juliet Davenport, founder and chief executive of Good Energy.

Like all businesses, green businesses need a stable legal framework within which to operate. There is no question that leaving the EU would introduce a lot of regulatory change and legal instability, at least in the short term. We would also be likely to see changes in exchange rates between sterling and the euro, with a decline in the value of the pound making imports for our production processes more expensive. This could lead to an increase in the perceived risk of lending to sterling-based businesses and hence higher cost of finance.

All of these economic effects, combined with new trade tariffs that we may face as a result of leaving the single market, will increase the costs of business and make life more difficult for businesses in the UK. Resilient and adaptable businesses would of course find a way to flourish, but it is important to note that it will probably be harder to find investment in the post-Brexit scenario. Households will experience the indirect consequences of these economic changes. If the cost of doing business goes up, this will be passed on to customers in the form of higher prices. In the energy sector this is likely to mean higher energy bills for electricity, for example, and since we import 60% of our energy from abroad – including 11% of our electricity from Europe – a price hike would be on the cards for businesses and households.

It is undeniable that the quality of the environment in the UK is protected by EU legislation. The EU has a good record of positive action on environmental issues as diverse as the quality of our beaches, climate change, mandatory targets for renewable energy, and clean air. While most of this legislation would continue to be in place immediately after the vote to leave the EU, the tendency to deny the reality of climate change and view environmental protection law as “red tape” does seem more prevalent in the Brexiteer camp. It is also worth making the point that any national government is less likely to pass strong environmental law than a club of nations.

One of the benefits of EU policy is that it can be made with a longer term perspective and is not driven by the five-year domestic electoral cycle. The indirect nature of EU democracy allows politicians and policy-makers to rise above the narrow interests of a political party and work better for the common good of both citizens and the environment. A decision to leave the EU would lead to a protracted period of negotiation over the exit terms and then a period of rewriting British law. This would be followed by the lengthy period of negotiating new bilateral agreements with a large number of countries to allow us to continue to trade. Not only would this undermine our ability to trade in the short term, and risk the loss of export markets, but it would also require an army of civil servants simply to undertake these negotiations. Government departments which have already been cut to the bone would see resources diverted from existing work, such as enforcing environmental law.

Many of the issues that would confront business if we left that EU are common to all businesses. But from the perspective of a green business we are facing particular threats and it seems clear that green businesses would be better supported by remaining part of the EU.

Student Exchange Programme at Risk

Across Europe young people are campaigning to draw attention to the benefits they have received from the Erasmus+ programme. Like many of the twinning and exchange activities that have helped to cement peace in Europe, as well as providing life-changing experiences for young people, Erasmus+ is under threat is the UK votes to leave the EU on 23rd June.

According to the campaign group Students for Europe, ‘ choosing to leave the EU at the June 23 referendum would threaten the academic futures and employment opportunities of an entire generation of students’.  To defend these advantages that the EU brings students will be demonstrating across the country.

Charlotte Martin speaks on behalf of Students for Europe and said:

“Coming from a predominantly working-class background, the Erasmus+ programme offered me an opportunity I would never have thought possible. As a British student I started learning a new language, and saw the wealth of job opportunities there are in Europe.

Leaving the EU risks the fantastic freedom of movement – to study, work and travel – that myself and others have today. In Nottingham we’ll be talking to students about why it’s so important to register to vote for the EU referendum.”

The Erasmus+ programme allows more than 10,000 British students to study abroad every year and since it was started more than 200,000 British students have been able to spend time at another European University, learning about other cultures and expanding their horizons. This programme is not just about travel and adventure but is vital in building the relationships that underpin peace in our continent.

Research for Universities UK indicates that the programme also brings economic benefits to individual students. Those who have completed an Erasmus placement have been shown to be 50% less likely to experience long-term unemployment.

UK influence within the EU dissected

Last week Vote Watch, an international NGO that tracks the votes of MEPs, released this special report looking at the effect the UK has had on EU legislation. The report looks at the two bodies responsible for amending and passing legislation from the European Commission – the Council of the EU, where we send UK ministers, and the European Parliament, where we send our 73 MEPs. So does their report vindicate the Leave camp’s claims that we have no influence?

One of the first things of note from their analysis is the big increase in cases of conflict in the Council when comparing the 2004-2009 period and the 2009-2015 period, i.e. when we started sending Tories, we started voting against or abstaining a lot more against EU wide interests, particularly on budgetary policies, foreign and security policy, and international development. This means that we went from being on the losing side 2.6% of the time during 04-09 to 12.3% during 09-15. Obviously on the flip side, this also shows that we were still voting and winning in almost 9/10 cases!

For those still complaining we have little influence, take note – with 22 MEPs, UKIP are our largest delegation in the Parliament. The report shows that UKIP MEPs’ capacity to exert influence in the European Parliament is significantly diminished by their very low participation rate in EP votes: in the first year of the current term, UKIP’s delegation has had a record low participation rate of just 62.3% in plenary votes, which places it at the very bottom among all national party delegations in the EU. Meanwhile, Greens/EFA MEPs have a much higher turnout, and have won (voted with the winning side) in 64% of votes since 2004.

And so onto positions of relative power in the Parliament. In short, UK MEPs have captured many agenda-setting positions. We have had Vice-Presidents, political group leaders, and Chairs of important committees. UK MEPs have also won rapporteurships (lead negotiator position) on key legislation, which has enabled them to shape EU law. Moreover, UK MEPs have not been ‘underrepresented’ relative to the MEPs from the other big member states. All of this has been possible despite the growing number of UKIP MEPs, who, along with their poor attendance have not competed for many key offices or rapporteurships.

The end of the report summarises with some of the main political influence that the UK has had. From a Green perspective it paints a mixed picture, with the UK driving support for nuclear and unconventional energies like fracking, and hampering action on tax avoidance, but also contributing significantly to the EU budget and enhancing copyright laws.

So there you have it then – the UK has plenty of influence, but if the people we send just aren’t up to the job, then you can’t expect to return a positive change for citizens across Europe.

EU Funded Projects in the South West

Earlier this week, we looked at EU funding to the most deprived areas of the South West. What about EU funding and the other end of the spectrum?

Horizon 2020 is the EU Research and Innovation programme for 2014 – 2020 following on from the FP7 programme. In the South West, Bristol and Swindon are amongst the largest UK recipients of Horizon 2020 research grants currently allocated, both at around €60 million so far for this period.

During the FP7 period (2007-2013) Bristol University received a whopping €142,263,470 in research funding, making it the 8th highest recipient of EU research funding in the UK higher education sector! Across the West Country, a total of 1,155 proposals were retained for funding (25.4% of total applicants from the region) involving 1,310 successful applicants and requesting €393,95m of EC financial contribution. This made the South West the 7th most successful individual region of all those in the EU 28 member states for research grant applications. The region received just under €600 million during the FP7 period, with a further €44 million to SMEs during that time too!

RNLI

There are great examples of  EU-funded projects right across our region. For example a North Dorset based company was awarded funds under the LIFE programme to develop an environment-friendly repair system for leaking sewage and rainwater/surface drainage pipes, while Dorset County Council received funding for a collaborative project focused on coastal zone management and the development of a strategy for an open coast. Poole-based charity the RNLI received funding to develop a system for decommissioning lifeboats and reducing carbon footprint of the organisation.

In Devon, there have been a whole series of funded projects. For example, Exeter City Council received a grant to undertake a housing refurbishment for a number of hard-to-treat, unoccupied properties in poor structural condition. The funding improved the energy efficiency, reducing the predicted annual energy costs by over £500 and saving over 3 tons of CO2/year per property.

Another great EU-funded project is based on the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus near Falmouth. The Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) is a £30 million interdisciplinary centre leading cutting-edge research into solutions to problems of environmental change.

And in Bristol, the National Composite Centre (NCC), based at Bristol and Bath Science Park, was developed with ERDF funding of £9 million to put the UK at the forefront of composites technology. The NCC is a purpose-built research and development facility which brings together dynamic companies and academics to develop technologies supporting the design and rapid manufacture of composite products. Advanced composites are lightweight, high-performance materials which are transforming the design and manufacture of products – from those used in the aerospace and automotive industries, to marine and renewable technologies. By reducing the weight of products, there can be significant reductions in carbon emissions and manufacturing costs, offering huge commercial opportunities and technological advantages.Not only is this ERDF investment expected to generate over 150 additional jobs, but the South West is now seen as a leader in this field, and the NCC is being expanded to attract ideas and research that will result in new products, businesses and jobs.

EU Funds

Here in the South West we are so often leading the way towards a more sustainable future, despite the challenges, and we must continue to make best use of the opportunity that EU Funding Programmes represent to our region.

In the European Parliament, the Greens/European Free Alliance MEPs group have produced this helpful guide to accessing EU funding opportunities, which we would encourage businesses and other organisations across the South West to read and share. With the current government hell bent on cutting spending, there’s no guarantee these streams will be replaced in the event we leave the EU or what their priorities might be.

You can find a comprehensive breakdown of EU funds to the South West on our Resources page.

South West Leads the Way Thanks to EU Funding

Last week, we went to see EU funds in action through a visit The Genesis Centre at Somerset College for a tour of their facility.

For anyone who is not familiar with the centre, Genesis is a £2.5m sustainable construction resource and learning centre for the South West; an idea which originally grew out of a student project. The centre demonstrates that traditional construction methods can work hand in hand with recycled materials and innovative technologies to create contemporary buildings that are more energy and water-efficient, create less waste, and

Genesis

perform to a high standard for the comfort of building users.

The centre houses a range of renewable energy systems which are used for demonstrations and training purposes, ensuring students and construction industry professionals receive hands on experience of working with low carbon technologies.

The centre was funded by the South West Regional Development Agency and the Learning & Skills Council, with funds from the European Regional Development Fund, and is one of many examples of forward-thinking projects that have benefitted from EU funding across the South West.

The South West has in fact been a major beneficiary of EU Funding, with Cornwall most notably receiving significant sums of money from various EU programmes.

Cornwall has received over €450 million in Regional Development funds along with nearly €140 million from the Social Fund. In cash terms, EU membership is worth over half a billion euros in funding to the most deprived county in our region.

For example, just over £7.5 million of ERDF has supported two key projects – the Pendennis Building & Redevelopment of the Yacht Basin. The extensive redevelopment of the Pendennis Building has seen the previous shore-side facility almost completely rebuilt, replaced by larger modernised construction halls, workshops and office space.

Pendennis has become one of Cornwall’s most important employers, thanks to EU Funding they significantly improved the facilities and 315 existing jobs have been safeguarded, with 60 permanent skilled jobs created to date in the Falmouth Docks area. This work builds on the historic maritime tradition of the town and has helped to deliver the Port of Falmouth masterplan.

Genesis 2
The European Social Fund (ESF) Raising Aspirations project (RAP) also helps low-skilled people and particularly women, develop their careers through learning and training. Plymouth University runs the project with partners, including Cornwall College. For example, at the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust, 22 lower-paid employees successfully completed a higher education module through Cornwall College.

It is fair to say that many of our partners in the EU are more sympathetic to the needs of rural areas than our government is, hence these supportive funding schemes. It is highly unlikely that such funding would continue if decisions were made at Westminster, leaving communities in the West Country vulnerable.

UK Environment Protected by EU Membership

Yesterday the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) published this report on the EU referendum and the UK,  covering policy areas regarding environment – a whopping 14 chapters, by as many experts from across the UK and further afield. The report looks at the impact of 3 scenarios – a vote to remain, a vote to leave and become a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) like Norway, or a vote to leave and negotiate individual free trade deals with the EU. So what did they find?

Environmental protection is a field in which EU cooperation is a defining strength, and with such legislation we as a united continent have taken the lead globally. The experts found that the EU has helped modernise our national policies to become focussed on preventing degradation, with clear standards and deadlines and a commitment to sustainability. They also found, far from Brexiteers claims that we have no influence, that the UK has played a role in moulding EU policy – namely preventing common policy on fracking and soil protection! The report also summarises that “there has been no significant long term convergence towards an environmental superstate in Brussels.”

On Climate Change it paints a better picture of us, with the UK playing a part in advocating ambitious emission reduction targets at the EU level, and shaping the internal energy market. It also shows that the EU has been a driver of our booming renewables sector despite the UK maintaining the right to determine its own energy mix, as demonstrated by the Chancellor recently pulling the rug out from under the sector’s feet. In signing up to the EU 2020 targets for greenhouse gas reductions and increasing the share of renewable energy, the UK was pressured into adopting an overhaul that saw attractive subsidies and industrial incentives alongside a new planning regime.

On Agriculture, it is critical of the impact of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) on the environment, but highlights that in the global context, any likely national agricultural policy pursued from outside the EU would have been along similar lines with similar effects. In the European Parliament, Greens have been leading the drive for a revolutionised CAP that puts environmental stewardship high on the agenda across the bloc, including capping payments to the largest industrial farms and promoting crop rotation.

Aside from the facts about what the EU has provided, an alarming prediction of the report in the event of us leaving is that, in the ‘Norwegian’ scenario, EU environmental rules covering bathing water, habitats and birds, and some aspects of climate legislation would cease to apply. There was recent public outcry over a proposal to water down the EU habitats directives, but a vote to leave could see us losing them altogether. The report also concludes that the CAP and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) would cease to apply, which is obviously a very important consideration, given the size of our rural economy in the South West.

The report is extensive including fisheries, planning, international policy and more, and overall reaffirms the stance that many environmental NGOs have been taking since the announcement for the 23rd June referendum – that the EU sets the bar high for protecting and enhancing our environment and, in the face of a government hell bent on deregulation, there could be grim consequences in a future outside of it.

 

The Economic and Social Research Council is a leading Research Council in the UK, focussing on economic and social concerns. You can find an easy to read executive summary of the report here.