How will Brexit impact Britain’s waste management practices?

Brexit: a bad choice is no excuse for not moving towards zero waste

Joan Marc Simon of Zero Waste Europe says that it doesn’t have to mean the end of the path to a zero-waste future for Britain.

“Brexit means Brexit”. This is the most concise explanation we have received so far from the British authorities about how are they planning to implement the results of the referendum held in the UK in June 2016.

Not surprisingly, the immediate impacts of the referendum boosted the support for EU membership around the EU. However, one could think that after the first critical moments, things went back to normal; the economy continued to run, etc. And, after a few months, all seems ok.

Well, this is the result for Britain of continuing to live within the EU; in the Customs Union, in the Single Market and implementing the acquis communautaire. For as long as Article 50 is not invoked, the UK might be able to protect its economy, albeit hampering future investments in the country which will instead look for a place where there is more legal security.

But even when Brexit happens – if it ends up happening – there is agreement that the path to leave the EU will be long and tortuous with great potential to harm economy and negatively affect social and environmental standards in the UK.

With this article, I intend to analyse how the different scenarios of a Brexit might impact the waste sector in the UK.

But before that, let’s make one thing clear: from a democratic legitimacy standpoint, there is no reason why EU legislation implemented so far should stop being British law, for the simple reason that they were laws that were approved with the active participation of the British Government in the council negotiations and the British members of parliament in the European Parliament (EP). The European legislation is as British as it is Italian or German. Nevertheless, when contemplating the different types of European laws, one can make a difference about the legitimacy between EU Directives and EU Regulations.

Directives such as the Waste Framework Directive or the Industrial Emissions Directive were jointly approved by co-decision procedure by the Council and the EP, but they need to go through the national parliaments in order to be transposed into EU law into national law. Hence all directives have gone through the Westminster Parliament and they are fully legitimised to continue to be applicable.

Even more so, considering that normally, with transposition of an EU directive into national law, each Member State (MS) has a certain amount of leeway as to the exact rules to be adopted. Indeed, directives require Member States to achieve a particular result without dictating the means of achieving that result. So, there is nothing to prevent MSs from fixing higher national standards.

Regulations are something else: the European Commission and the Council can produce regulations which have the main characteristic that they need to be applied in MS and they don’t go through national parliaments, being directly applicable in its entirety and enforceable by law. The British legislators might feel legitimated to remove the regulations but this has the risk of creating loopholes or legal lacunae; for instance the waste shipment regulation rules the move of waste for recovery and disposal within EU borders and to the outside. If the Shipment Regulation was repealed, it would mean that the UK needs to create a new law that is compatible with the Waste Framework Directive and the Basel Convention. It makes more to just keep the regulation as it is.

This is an important point because if the UK leadership manages to convince the brexit supporters that in fact the UK participated in the making of the EU law and the British Parliament has transposed them into British law, it will be easier to convince them to keep the laws as they are, thereby saving time and efforts to everybody. Definitely, it would be a measure that should be supported by the local authorities, the industry and the NGOs for it provides legal certainty about what is going to happen in the coming years.

Besides the democratic legitimacy perspective, keeping the acquis communautaire can be observed from the position of the advantages of staying in the single market, which would involve accepting free movement of people. This is where we find at least three possible scenarios for the UK.

Firstly, there is the “out is out” option, with the UK not having access to the EU internal market. This would mean increase in tariffs and controls, less access to European and foreign markets which according to calculations from UK treasury would total a 7,5% loss of GDP over 15 years. The catastrophic consequences for Britain speak in favour of ruling out this option.

The second option is to try to emulate the Swiss option. Switzerland is not a member of the EU nor the EEA. Instead, it has negotiated a series of bilateral treaties governing its relations with the EU. Usually, each treaty provides for Switzerland to participate in a particular EU policy or programme. Adopting the Swiss model following Brexit could be appealing if the UK is looking for an ‘à la carte’ approach to European integration. But this depends also on the EU approach, indeed Commission and key Member States will be concerned about creating precedents for similarly complex and à la carte arrangements in the event of other Member States choosing to leave the EU in future. This option is therefore to be ruled out because of the bad predisposition of the EU to concede such an agreement.

Finally, there is the option of following the “Norwegian model”; that is implementing the EU acquis and being able to participate in the single market whilst allowing the UK to strike its own trade deals outside the EU. This is likely to be a more acceptable option despite implying new bureaucratic burdens for British exporters who will have to comply with complex “rules of origin” and which includes some contributions to the European budget too.

Obviously, if/when Brexit happens, the UK will end up developing a model of its own but it wouldn’t make legal, economic or environmental sense to scrap current Environmental legislation in order to create a completely new set of disparate laws which are not compatible with the definitions, procedures or targets set by its immediate trade partners.

It is indeed a paradox that the result of Brexit would mean that the UK will end up having to implement laws that they didn’t make, hence being in a “worst situation” than before the Brexit. This is not necessarily bad news for the EU environmental policies for it has been because of the UK filibustering that most environmental policies have been delayed or lacked ambition over the last years. As a result of UK’s departure from the negotiating table one could expect faster moves towards a circular economy.

In either case one should not forget that what the EU legislation does is provide the baseline for member states but those are always free to be more ambitious than what the directives say I.e. member states are obliged to achieve 50% recycling by 2020 but they can aim for more –not less – if they want. Examples from the network of zero waste municipalities show very well how in those municipalities where there is political will moving towards zero waste is possible. The UK history, England in particular, is not one of success or vision when it comes to resource and waste management. Countries that joined the EU 30 years later than the UK are performing substantially better; Slovenia and Ljubljana in particular have implemented ambitious and efficient waste collection systems and Estonia and Lithuania already have deposit and refund schemes operating for packaging.

Why can’t we envisage the UK implementing deposit and refund schemes, widespread separate collection at the kerbside and moving away from incinerators, landfills and waste exports? The recent microbeads ban in the UK shows that where there is a will there is a way. If the Brits are so brave to break away from the EU they will surely dare to provide a more resilient future for their new generations, won’t they?

Joan Marc Simon

Director,

Zero Waste Europe

 

Fair Isle gets its Marine Protected Area

Scottish Government approves Fair Isles Demonstration and Research MPA

On 26 October, Roseanna Cunningham, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, announced  the designation of the Fair Isle Demonstration & Research Marine Protected Area – Scotland’s first ever designation of this kind.

Great result for 25 years of Community effort 

The news comes on the back of decades of community effort campaigning for improved protection for Fair Isle’s waters. Fair Isle is famed for its migratory bird populations and attracts visitors the world over. A small and remote island, located around 40km from the nearest land, the local economy is reliant upon a healthy marine environment to underpin their wildlife tourism industry. Fair Isle records a greater diversity of bird species per unit area than anywhere else in Britain and Ireland, due to its location as first landfall for migrants moving across both the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean, and often records unusual avian visitors not found elsewhere in the UK. In addition, seventeen species of seabirds breed on Fair Isle, however populations of these have declined from c. 250,000 in total in the 1980s and 1990s to just over 100,000 in 2010, with species such as kittiwakes, arctic skuas, puffins, shags and arctic terns showing the most rapid declines. This is not only an issue for the biodiversity of Fair Isle, but also represents a threat to the island’s main industry – wildlife-based tourism.

FIMETI ‘s role crucial for campaign success

The Fair Isle Marine Environment and Tourism Initiative (FIMETI) was established in 1995 as a partnership between the Fair Isle community, the National Trust for Scotland and the Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust to work toward the long-term protection and sustainable management of the seas around the island. The proposal for the Demonstration and Research Marine Protected Area (MPA) was developed in 2011 by FIMETI on behalf of all residents of Fair Isle, and had full support of other stakeholders using these waters.

Fair Isles MPA’s 2 objectives

The Fair Isle MPA is ultimately designed to protect the island’s sea bird populations (and associated bird tourism industry) and has two objectives:

  • to conduct robust research on population decline of seabirds,
  • to demonstrate the social and economic value of a healthy marine environment to the Fair Isle community and others.

It differs from Scotland’s nature conservation MPAs in that rather than specifically protecting species of European importance it is specifically targeted toward carrying out research to demonstrate sustainable marine management approaches.

Piloting a partnership approach

Speaking about the news, former FIMETI representative Nick Riddiford said, “I am delighted that 25 years of community effort to safeguard our seas has reached this milestone. Its goal as the first Demonstration and Research MPA in Scotland is to pilot a partnership approach towards sustainable marine management of benefit to all.”

“The sea plays a huge role in the economic, social, cultural and environmental wellbeing of the isle. The designation will make a big difference for Fair Isle.”

 

Post Brexit Island access to single market?

“Single Market must work for the islands “said Conservative  MEP Ian Duncan last August.

Last year (30.09.15), Dr Ian Duncan, Conservative MEP for Scotland, and chair of the ECR, welcomed small businessmen from across Europe to the European Parliament to discuss the challenges facing Islands and peripheral communities.

Speaking from the European Parliament in Brussels, Dr Duncan said

‘When I campaigned to be elected to the European Parliament I was struck by the challenges facing Island communities right across Scotland. The small businesses based on these Islands produce goods and services of incredibly high quality, but encounter barriers such as distance from market, transport challenges, intermittent Internet, and attracting and retaining staff. We heard today from speakers from Scotland, Denmark, Croatia and Finland, all of whom face common challenges.

‘The key message is that the Single Market must work for you regardless of where you live and work. If you are in Stornoway, or Stirling, Arran or Aberdeen you should be able to do business. The islands don’t need special treatment, they need equal treatment. So when we talk about a Digital Single Market it should be a market for every islander as well as every mainlander. The same when we talk about an Energy Union; it should connect every household, not just those in the middle. And of course, you should be able to access the single market without let or hindrance, regardless of whether you are selling whisky on Islay or gin in Edinburgh.

‘I am delighted to have been able to bring together experts from across Europe and look forward to publishing a report of our findings in due course.’

The group heard from speakers including Gerald Michaluk, the owner of the Arran Brewery, and Donald MacInnes, crofter and former Chief Executive of Scotland Europa.

Gerald Michaluk commented,

‘As one of our potentially biggest trading partners Europe is essential, and if Scotland wants to maintain jobs and vitality on its Islands it needs to support Dr Ian Duncan’s initiative.

‘Islands need to have full access to Europe and be able to operate on a level playing field with mainland locations. Only in this way can we sustain the beauty and natural environment of Island communities across the EU.’

Donald MacInnes commented:

‘Islanders don’t feel remote. For the single market to work for everyone, disparities between peripheral regions/islands must be minimised. Equally important is to focus on eliminating differences within these regions and islands. An understanding of this fine grain is crucial in seeking strategies and solutions.’

Jamie McGrigor, Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands added:

‘As someone who lives in and has represented remote and island communities in the Scottish Parliament for many years, I know the unique challenges they face. Geography, transportation and logistical challenges often mean it is particularly difficult to do business in remote communities such as those up and down the west coast of Scotland.

“However, their produce, skills and expertise are often second to none, and I am delighted that my colleague Ian Duncan MEP is raising this issue in the European Parliament.”

What is Dr Ian Duncan’s position now?

Currently there are no new post from Dr Duncan’s blog on the need for the islands to engage with the single market.

Is he towing the party line on a hard Brexit, or he is standing by his word on the Single Market s advantage for the island?

If you are concerned about this issue,  contact Andrew Johnston, Head of Office for Ian Duncan, Ian Duncan MEP as he stated his position as always putting Scotland’s interests’ first and the current discussion does not look as if Scotland’s interests – and never mind the islands – are being fully considered in the discussion.  

 

 

Islands in Scotland’s Rural Parliament manifesto

Putting islands in Scotland’s Rural Parliament manifesto

The Scottish Rural Parliament in 2016 brought together 350 people from across rural Scotland to discuss the issues of greatest importance to rural communities.

This year’s rural Parliament in Brechin saw an increase in island representation. Not only the Scottish Islands Federation held its own workshop as part of the Fringe, but a sizeable proportion of the prizes for social innovation also went to islanders. Yet again another example of  of islanders showing that they are smart.

Islanders from Barra, Mull , Skye and Shetland among the winners.
Islanders from Barra, Mull , Skye and Shetland among the winners.

A Manifesto for Rural Scotland was agreed with participants deciding what actions need to be taken and by who, to ensure our rural communities are empowered, connected and sustainable.

The final Manifesto and Action Plan will be published shortly on the Rural Parliament website.

The four subjects prioritised by participants were: Land, Local democracy & governance, Business and Broadband and mobile phone signal.

The Scottish Islands Federation asked for the situation of islands to be considered in a number of the manifesto’s paragraphs. Much like legislation after the island Bill is passed, the manisfesto needs to be island proofed.

The site visits were all inspiring and and there a was visible buzz about the place. People genuinely felt they could express themselves and be heard. A lot of connections were made.

The Scottish Rural Parliament did feel like it presented a genuine opportunity for communities to make real and positive changes where they live. There was a real buzz about the event.

The main  concept of the Rural Parliament is that it is a participative event., where rural people can talk face to face to politicians and policy makers. It is a welcome sign of democracy in action.