Environment and Climate Change

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Review of the Balance of Competences between the United Kingdom and the European Union Environment and Climate Change

February 2014

Review of the Balance of Competences between the United Kingdom and the European Union Environment and Climate Change

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Executive Summary


Introduction13 Chapter 1 Development and Current State of Competence


Chapter 2

Impact on the National Interest


Chapter 3

Future Opportunities and Challenges


Appendix Statistics on Trends in Environmental Performance83 Annex A

List of Evidence


Annex B List of Organisations that Attended Workshops for the Environment and Climate Change Report94 Annex C

List of Acronyms


Executive Summary

This report examines the balance of competences between the European Union and the United Kingdom in the area of environment and climate change, and is led by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department of Energy and Climate Change. It is a reflection and analysis of the evidence submitted by experts, non-governmental organisations, businesspeople, Members of Parliament and other interested parties, either in writing or orally, as well as a literature review of relevant material. Where appropriate, the report sets out the current position agreed within the Coalition Government for handling this policy area in the EU. It does not predetermine or prejudge proposals that either Coalition party may make in the future for changes to the EU or about the appropriate balance of competences. For the purposes of this review, the report uses a broad definition of competence. Competence in the environment and climate change context is about everything deriving from EU law that affects how in the UK we manage the environment and define our response to climate change. The twin themes of protection of the environment and facilitation of trade inform EU action in this area. The founding treaties of what is now the EU did not explicitly identify a power for the EU to act to protect the environment. Even at the time of the UK’s accession to what was then the European Economic Community in 1973, the need to protect the environment was not a widely recognised issue, and indeed climate change was not considered until much later. The initial drive for development of EU competence in this area was to improve the functioning of the Single Market. However, as concern about environmental degradation steadily increased, EU competence became more focused on protecting the environment for reasons of sustainability. More recently, the EU has gained express competence to act on climate change, reflecting the growing concern about the potential impacts of climate change on the environment, the economy and our society. EU law now covers the majority of areas of environment and climate change policy. Environmental issues are also the subject of international action through a large number of multilateral environmental agreements, and the work of international organisations such as the United Nations (UN). The EU now plays an active role in the negotiation and implementation of international agreements relating to the environment and in the mai