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Slashing waste red tape 'risks environment'

A Government bid to slash red tape, which includes scrapping a raft of waste regulations, risks sweeping away laws vital to protecting the environment, an influential group of MPs has warned.  

The Environmental Audit Committee published a report that warned against losing ‘sensible’ regulations as well as accusing the Government of kicking plans for a green economy into the long grass.  

Defra said in March that a raft of waste regulations were set for the axe with rules governing e-waste, hazardous waste and fly tipping all set to be scrapped as part of the Red Tape Challenge.

Labour MP Joan Walley, who chairs the EAC, said: “The Treasury seems to see environmental regulations as nothing more than costly red-tape, but what we are talking about here are vital laws to give us clean air, safe food, and a thriving countryside.

“It would be irresponsible to get rid of sensible regulations in a desperate dash for growth and we will be watching ministers very carefully on this.”

She added: “The Government promised a roadmap to a green economy, but two years in it seems to have stalled. We risk slipping back to business-as-usual.”

Walley said it was “incredibly short-sighted” of the Treasury not to give businesses clear incentives to use resources more smartly.

The report urges the Government to: 

  • Produce a green economy strategy, which is Treasury-led and addresses the economy as a whole.
  • Take a longer-term view driven by a clear definition of a green economy. The current definition adopted by the Government crucially does not address all three interdependent pillars of sustainable development, including the social pillar, well-being and environmental limits.
  • Give greater consideration given to support for the green economy in future budgets.
  • Develop minimum sustainability standards with stakeholders and businesses
  • Set out how data on natural capital in the National Accounts will be used
  • Develop targets for improving the state of the environment, similar to the ‘fiscal mandate’ for the public finances, and establish transparent reporting against such targets
  • Use the Natural Capital Committee’s work on a ‘natural asset stock check’ as one of the basket of indicators used to measure the green economy.

The report, A Green Economy Twelfth Report of Session 2010–12, can be viewed in full here

Defra also pledged in March that ministers would address producer concerns about the cost of recovering and recycling waste electrical and electronic equipment through compliance schemes by 2014.

Environment secretary Caroline Spelman insisted when the Challenge was launched that environmental regulations would “remain as strong as ever but be made simpler and more effective”.

 

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