The Tories are consulting on replacing all Environmental Legisation as part of their Red Tap Challenge.
They’re probably going to completely bugger it up – push more permits to polluters – but a blank sheet of paper is an opportunity, as well as a massive threat. While campaigning groups are starting to mobilise to protect bits of the legislation, and other groups have been moving against it for years (more explicitly in the US).
The PM both claims to be green, and wants to dramatically reduce the complexity of legislation. I’m not sure they are necessarily contradictory positions in theory, even if they turn out to be in political practice.
But as environmentalists, we don’t fundamentally care about text of legislation directly, what we care about is the outcome on the environment. Is the current rules the best we can hope for?
Can we devise a rule, which meets the Government requirement of “less complexity” and does more for the environment?
There are hurdles to be overcome in such a challenge, but the new businesses that will be needed, the new innovations, the new technologies, will create growth, jobs, and all the things that the Government likes to talk about as coming in all other areas of the economy.
With the push for deficit reduction, NHS restructuring, school changes et al, there is an all encompassing push for speed. Environmental challenges are equally as urgent, if not more so; what if some of the political capital, all momentum (and downright political bullying) were focussed in the direction we want it to go?
Even if you don’t believe in Climate Change, consider only the pollution in your local park, and the quality of air on your street.
So, what if it was all swept aside, and the rules became something roughly as simple as these:
- What you put out must be cleaner and safer than what you take in.
- Where the inputs involve pollution, they must improve 10% per year on the 2010 baseline towards item 1.
It’s eminently doable, simple, understandable, which is the claimed goal of this review; and, as a bonus, it’s sustainable in a Decade. There needs to be careful definitions to avoid loopholes, but all sustainability really means, is leaving the world better than you found it.
So it’s probably a non-starter, but if the intellectual honesty matched the political posturing, it shouldn’t be.
During the recent #ecfdebate, David Babbs of 38 degrees and I had a brief discussion about metrics, and I used the example of inclusion of organisations in their mailout as an example of 38 degrees focussing on the wrong thing. Micah White from Adbusters talked well about metrics, I talked about press releases and substantive content of messages.
I repeated the question I asked on the ECF list: “Did no one else help?”