Healthier environment Aug03
Union environmental legislation impacts directly on our lives in West
Suffolk. To date, this legislation has controlled pollution through
economic policy like the landfill tax, climate change levy and emissions
trading; encouraged changes in resource management of water and waste
through recycling; preserved and protected the natural environment of
habitats, birds and fish and covered funding for local government using
the “LIFE” instrument.
reports of the European Environment Agency confirm that this legalisation
has resulted in substantial progress, visible in the enhanced quality of
our environment. Better waste disposal and efficient recycling of waste,
the collection and disposal of harmful electrical equipment, recycling of
disposed vehicle tyres and better management of vehicle exhaust fumes have
all helped in reducing overall pollution.
CO2 emissions is the big environmental challenge over the next ten years
and the EU must make every effort to shift to the use of biofuels, wind,
solar and tidal energy. Most EU countries are experiencing difficulty in
meeting the Kyoto targets, with the exception of those countries that are
shutting down their coal and/or steel industries. In general, northern
European countries generally observe the EU laws on CO2 emissions and
implement these however high the cost. In particular, I welcome recent
announcements by the British government to expand the amount of
electricity generated by offshore wind power. Southern European countries,
however, sign up to the laws but tend to take longer to implement them,
whilst Eastern European countries, with long derogations for current EU
laws, are not expected to comply.
European Environment Agency should be empowered to establish teams of
independent inspectors who will monitor the situation in each EU Member
state. Such teams should submit regular reports to identify the level of
compliance and action should be taken, if necessary, to enforce change.
Far too often, such monitoring is left to NGOs but whilst such
organisations are vigilant in northern Europe, they are not so
“active” in southern and eastern Europe.
The “polluter pays” principle should continue to guide future legislation and every attempt should be made to encourage manufacturers to design products that can be, at least in part, biodegradable. It may be appropriate to have a proportional system that allows an indirect tax, such as VAT, to be levied according to a product’s degree of biodegradability i.e. a product that is totally biodegradable should be zero rated for VAT whilst those unsuitable for recycling would attract the full level of the tax. Such an economic measure would stimulate many manufacturers to redesign their products to maximise their profits. Such a policy would minimise recycling expenditure for our local government in West Suffolk and benefit our community both in reduced local taxes as well as a better environment.