Brexit and environmental standards

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Bird on a Fire
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Brexit and environmental standards

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Jul 20, 2020 2:18 pm

Despite continued assurances that Brexit wouldn't mean a decline in environmental standards, the current environment minister is making noises about scrapping fundamental environmental legislation in order to (supposedly) boost trade post-Brexit:
Ministers are considering excluding free ports from rules protecting birds and wildlife habitats – protections which George Eustice, the environment secretary, has previously attacked as being “spirit-crushing” and pledged to scrap.

Andrew Dodd, head of casework for the RSPB, said: “Removing those protections would be disastrous for the wildlife in those areas and a massive backward step in the way the UK looks after its most important wildlife places. It would undo a lot of the positive work that the ports sector has done with major environmental organisations over the last 20 years.”

Birds and habitats regulations derive from two EU directives which Eustice said during the referendum campaign “would go” in the event of Brexit. They are among rules that Boris Johnson has derided as “newt-counting delays” which hold up his Project Speed ambitions to “build, build, build”. The regulations enabled the creation of hundreds of special areas of conservation and special protection areas, which green groups say have delivered essential protections for Britain’s green spaces and wildlife such as the Humber estuary with its population of grey seals.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment ... grey-seals

Obviously this is exactly the kind of lowering of standards that the EU has been worrying about since day 1, as EU ports would continue to follow that legislation, totally pissing all over the idea of a 'level playing field'.

But the Johnson government seems far keener to sign deals with environment-trashing economies like the USA, so there is in fact a serious risk that the UK is going to sell nature down the river to try to alleviate impending economic doom.
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Bird on a Fire
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Re: Brexit and environmental standards

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Jul 20, 2020 2:24 pm

It's perhaps worth noting that ports is one area where industry and the environmental sector have been working reasonably well together.

In the landmark case of the Dibden Bay proposal in Southampton Water in the mid-90s, ABP attempted to basically get around the fact that their proposed location was a hugely important internationally-protected area. They ultimately spent £40m trying to fight the case, which went to judicial review, and they ultimately lost, wiping a further £60m off their share price.

After that they called in a bunch of environmental orgs and asked them how to avoid that sort of thing happening again, and the answer was to involve conservationists earlier on in the planning process to make sure that their proposals were not just legal but decent practice. This has allowed ports to continue to operate, expand, and perform management like dredging, while also safeguarding, managing or creating new compensatory habitat.

Obviously it would be a lot cheaper for them not to bother, though.
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Re: Brexit and environmental standards

Post by Lew Dolby » Mon Jul 20, 2020 2:34 pm

Nobody should be surprised.

We've all known since 2016 that the Tories intended to bin workers' rights, comsumer rights, environmental protection and a whole load more.

Pretty much every piece of Brexit-related legislation to come before parliament got opposition amendments to protect/maintain those things. Every time, the Tories voted down the amendments while claiming they didn't intend to trash them protections.
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Re: Brexit and environmental standards

Post by Little waster » Mon Jul 20, 2020 3:15 pm

Lew Dolby wrote:
Mon Jul 20, 2020 2:34 pm
Nobody should be surprised.

We've all known since 2016 that the Tories intended to bin workers' rights, comsumer rights, environmental protection and a whole load more.

Pretty much every piece of Brexit-related legislation to come before parliament got opposition amendments to protect/maintain those things. Every time, the Tories voted down the amendments while claiming they didn't intend to trash them protections.
And yet every time the so-called Lexiteers skipped through the government lobby with massive grins on their faces, arm-in-arm with Patel and Rees-Mogg, proudly boasting of what a good job they were doing sticking up for the clear, democratically-expressed and unanimous wish of their constituents and socialism and no they would not be seeking re-election as it would be unfair to the other candidates to allow a grateful electorate to express their heart-felt thanks.
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Re: Brexit and environmental standards

Post by Bird on a Fire » Wed Aug 19, 2020 12:18 pm

Even when it was in the EU, the UK's rivers and estuaries often failed environmental standards. For example, in the last year alone, water companies released raw sewage into rivers for a total of 1.5 million hours, on 200,00 occasions.

Now, the head of the Environment Agency is suggesting to business leaders that they'll weaken those protections after Brexit:
The head of the Environment Agency has endorsed a proposal to weaken laws on cleanliness of polluted rivers, lakes and coastlines after Brexit.

Campaigners say Sir James Bevan is trying to “rig the system” to cover up decades of failure by the agency.

Bevan flagged the idea of amending the EU’s water framework directive (WFD) to an audience of business leaders. England has consistently failed to bring its rivers up to the standard required under the directive, which puts waterways through four stringent tests designed to assess their health. Rivers have to be assessed on all four tests in order to be graded as “good” – known as the one-out-all-out rule.

Just 14% of English rivers have been assessed under the directive as good. The directive sees water quality as an area that can have the most significant impact on the environment and examines factors such as biology, physical character, depth, width, flow and pollution as part of the four tests.

But Bevan said in his speech that he wanted England to reform the directive to end the one-out-all-out rule and allow rivers to be judged on one criterion rather than all four. If that changed, the number of rivers judged in a good state would rise dramatically overnight.
It only takes failure on one point for a river to be in bad condition. For instance, there's no point having a nicely flowing stream if it's full of sewage. This is, obviously, simply a favour to water companies who make billions of pounds of profit monopolising something that literally falls from the sky, at the expense of everybody who values or depends on the countryside.
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Re: Brexit and environmental standards

Post by plodder » Fri Aug 21, 2020 7:04 am

There are rivers in pipes under London (and many, many other towns and cities) that can’t really be naturalised because there’s nowhere to put them. There’s still a benefit to those rivers containing clean water though, because they discharge into the sea.

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Re: Brexit and environmental standards

Post by discovolante » Fri Aug 21, 2020 8:13 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Wed Aug 19, 2020 12:18 pm
Even when it was in the EU, the UK's rivers and estuaries often failed environmental standards. For example, in the last year alone, water companies released raw sewage into rivers for a total of 1.5 million hours, on 200,00 occasions.

Now, the head of the Environment Agency is suggesting to business leaders that they'll weaken those protections after Brexit:
The head of the Environment Agency has endorsed a proposal to weaken laws on cleanliness of polluted rivers, lakes and coastlines after Brexit.

Campaigners say Sir James Bevan is trying to “rig the system” to cover up decades of failure by the agency.

Bevan flagged the idea of amending the EU’s water framework directive (WFD) to an audience of business leaders. England has consistently failed to bring its rivers up to the standard required under the directive, which puts waterways through four stringent tests designed to assess their health. Rivers have to be assessed on all four tests in order to be graded as “good” – known as the one-out-all-out rule.

Just 14% of English rivers have been assessed under the directive as good. The directive sees water quality as an area that can have the most significant impact on the environment and examines factors such as biology, physical character, depth, width, flow and pollution as part of the four tests.

But Bevan said in his speech that he wanted England to reform the directive to end the one-out-all-out rule and allow rivers to be judged on one criterion rather than all four. If that changed, the number of rivers judged in a good state would rise dramatically overnight.
It only takes failure on one point for a river to be in bad condition. For instance, there's no point having a nicely flowing stream if it's full of sewage. This is, obviously, simply a favour to water companies who make billions of pounds of profit monopolising something that literally falls from the sky, at the expense of everybody who values or depends on the countryside.
Who is there around who has leverage to stop this kind of thing? I read a 'good news story' about a bit of the river Wharfe in Yorkshire potentially being designated a bathing site with the idea that this will force it to be kept clean (no doubt you know more about this) but these kinds of things are all just case by case solutions. I can't get out of my narrow 'strategic litigation, aha!' mindset and I'm not sure who has actual clout in this area, if anyone.

Do you think the fact that loads of people live in cities is a reason there isn't more of a stink over it (no pun intended). I would definitely notice if the river near my house suddenly started reeking of sewage but I just kind of accepted the Thames as being a bit manky looking (yes I know there is lots about it being cleaner these days, still wouldn't want to swim in it).
don't get any big ideas, they're not gonna happen

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Martin Y
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Re: Brexit and environmental standards

Post by Martin Y » Fri Aug 21, 2020 10:17 am

The funny thing about Taking Back Control is that nobody seems to be in control.

It's as if Leavers were so overjoyed to get it back they threw a wild party and the morning after they couldn't remember where they put it. Now they're just hoping they find it before everyone else spots it's missing.

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Re: Brexit and environmental standards

Post by plodder » Fri Aug 21, 2020 1:46 pm

The public need to get organised, frankly.

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Re: Brexit and environmental standards

Post by discovolante » Fri Aug 21, 2020 1:57 pm

plodder wrote:
Fri Aug 21, 2020 1:46 pm
The public need to get organised, frankly.
When they do they get criticized for doing it wrong.

But it might be helpful to organize around something that already has a chance of being effective rather than bumbling around ineffectually, which was the reason for my question.
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Re: Brexit and environmental standards

Post by plodder » Fri Aug 21, 2020 2:35 pm

Oh yeah, I know. Probably needs a figurehead that people can get behind, a clear set of aims and that little spark of magic that helps it pick up momentum.

Surfers against Sewage have achieved a lot & Fergal Sharkey gets good publicity with his River Health stuff. One really good local tactic is to form a "friends of..." group, that takes moral ownership of a particular stretch of river or woodland etc. Then there's a focal point for campaigning, a clear set of aims etc.

I've currently found myself shoved into local campaigning due to an antisocial and polluting business nearby that's also cheerfully ignoring its planning conditions. In the last month, from scratch, we've been on the news and all over the local press, I've got the MP's ear (who is bollocking the local authority for us), we've got a petition, all the various enforcement teams are circling in, statutory consultees are aware, we're bossing them on twitter and lots of locals are doing fun stuff like sitting in their cars and writing down all the things they're getting wrong.

All this has had the effect of making them immediately stop all their anti-social behaviour (and most of the pollution), and it was basically me and the missus (and a handful of others) from our smartphones.

So also needed is gumption, obvs.

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Re: Brexit and environmental standards

Post by Trinucleus » Fri Aug 21, 2020 2:50 pm

plodder wrote:
Fri Aug 21, 2020 2:35 pm
Oh yeah, I know. Probably needs a figurehead that people can get behind, a clear set of aims and that little spark of magic that helps it pick up momentum.

Surfers against Sewage have achieved a lot & Fergal Sharkey gets good publicity with his River Health stuff. One really good local tactic is to form a "friends of..." group, that takes moral ownership of a particular stretch of river or woodland etc. Then there's a focal point for campaigning, a clear set of aims etc.

I've currently found myself shoved into local campaigning due to an antisocial and polluting business nearby that's also cheerfully ignoring its planning conditions. In the last month, from scratch, we've been on the news and all over the local press, I've got the MP's ear (who is bollocking the local authority for us), we've got a petition, all the various enforcement teams are circling in, statutory consultees are aware, we're bossing them on twitter and lots of locals are doing fun stuff like sitting in their cars and writing down all the things they're getting wrong.

All this has had the effect of making them immediately stop all their anti-social behaviour (and most of the pollution), and it was basically me and the missus (and a handful of others) from our smartphones.

So also needed is gumption, obvs.
Brilliant, well done. It does seem to be easier these days to get companies to take notice of things. I'm old enough to remeber the campaign against lead in petrol which had many years before it got anywhere

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Re: Brexit and environmental standards

Post by discovolante » Fri Aug 21, 2020 3:15 pm

I had a part as a fox in a school play about CFCs, and they were banned not long after. I don't generally like to brag about my achievements though.

I have been hopeless at being in touch with local news since I moved here. It's something I resolved to address a couple of days ago so here's another incentive.
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Re: Brexit and environmental standards

Post by JQH » Fri Aug 21, 2020 3:15 pm

Trinucleus wrote:
Fri Aug 21, 2020 2:50 pm
... It does seem to be easier these days to get companies to take notice of things. I'm old enough to remember the campaign against lead in petrol which had many years before it got anywhere
IIRC it took so long because the petroleum companies spent a lot of effort casting doubt on the evidence that lead in petrol caused harm. That tactic seems vaguely familiar...
And remember that if you botch the exit, the carnival of reaction may be coming to a town near you.

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Martin Y
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Re: Brexit and environmental standards

Post by Martin Y » Fri Aug 21, 2020 4:31 pm

discovolante wrote:
Fri Aug 21, 2020 3:15 pm
I had a part as a fox in a school play about CFCs, and they were banned not long after.
Well done. School plays should clearly have been banned years ago.

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Re: Brexit and environmental standards

Post by shpalman » Fri Aug 21, 2020 5:56 pm

discovolante wrote:
Fri Aug 21, 2020 3:15 pm
I had a part as a fox in a school play about CFCs, and they were banned not long after.
Well done. Foxes should clearly have been banned years ago.
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Re: Brexit and environmental standards

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu Sep 10, 2020 1:43 pm

You know the government is weak on the environment when even the fishing industry wants it to impose more restrictions on the fishing industry:
In the letter to the Environment Secretary, SSC businesses argue that the current ineffective management of fisheries limits the ability of UK fishing communities to sell to responsible UK businesses. It also impacts the availability of sustainably sourced seafood for consumers.

Instead, a more sustainably-minded Fisheries Bill could reduce reliance on imports, strengthen ties between national fisheries and seafood businesses, and improve responsible sourcing across the board, boosting the health of our oceans and their precious resources.

Businesses are calling for:
  • Sustainable fishing limits that are legally binding, in order to prevent overfishing;
    Robust monitoring and enforcement to better aid vital data collection and ensure compliance with the rules; and,
    Sustainable management of shared stocks – essential given that the UK shares over 100 stocks with the EU alone.
The letter is signed by 22 of the UK’s leading supermarkets, brands and processors. These are: Tesco, Waitrose & Partners, Sainsbury’s, The Co-op, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Lidl, Whitby Seafoods, Lyons Seafoods, Bidfood, Hilton Seafood UK, Direct Seafoods, Young’s, New England Seafood, the National Federation of Fish Friers, The Big Prawn Co., World Wise Foods, Seafresh Group, Joseph Robertson, The Happy Prawn Co., Lynx Purchasing and Meridian Sea.
https://www.sustainableseafoodcoalition ... ries-bill/

The letter itself can be read here.

It notes that:
- despite assurances that Brexit wouldn't mean a weakening in environmental standards, the current proposed Fisheries Bill "does not transpose the legal commitment set out in (b) that would ensure that all stocks are fished in line with MSY [maximum sustainable yields]", but instead relies on optional (and thus-far unwritten) management plans. Note also that "Authorities have complete discretion as to whether they want to put in place a management plan for a particular stock. In addition, the plans can be disregarded if they have a negative economic impact on the fishing industry."
- the Bill ignores a recent Lords committee report recommendation that the government "urgently take steps to put robust mechanisms in place to monitor and enforce compliance", meaning that we won't actually know who catches what where
- crucially, they don't seem to have worked out a mechanism for managing fish stocks that move between UK and EU waters:
The Fisheries Bill does not make any firm commitment as to how shared stocks will be managed. Setting an objective for the Secretary of State to consider clear sustainability criteria in relation to negotiations with the EU and other countries, including a commitment to agree catch limits that are in line with scientific advice, would help avoid another “mackerel wars” scenario where continuing disagreements between the EU, Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands on the size of catches and quotas led to catches set at 35% above the levels recommended by scientists.
Mackerel was Britain's most valuable fish, at a third of landings, but overfishing has brought it to the point of collapse.

So, despite claiming to be "led by science" in other areas, fisheries policy will instead ignore both scientists and business leaders in order to eke out perhaps another decade or so overexploiting the remaining fish stocks before they, too, collapse.
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Re: Brexit and environmental standards

Post by Sciolus » Thu Sep 17, 2020 9:04 pm

This is quite an achievement:
Not one river or lake in England has met a legal water quality standard threshold, according to new official classifications released by DEFRA this morning.

The Environment Agency assessed around 4,600 surface water and groundwater bodies in 2019 for their ecological and chemical health as required under the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and was not able to give any a clean bill of health.

The agency assesses a range of ecological elements before classifying a river as being in high, good, moderate, poor or bad health. It is also assessed for its chemical health and can pass or fail based on the concentration levels of particular harmful substances.

The highest overall rating - accounting for both ecological and chemical health - given to surface water bodies was ‘moderate’. Some 3,740 were classified as such, 793 were deemed poor and 137 were rated bad.
...
The initial deadline for England’s water bodies to meet good health was 2015, but the UK applied for an extension to 2021, which it will miss. It also applied for an extension out to the final available deadline of 2027, but Environment Agency chief executive Sir James Bevan told a House of Commons committee back in 2017 that England would miss even this stretch deadline.
Can't actually find the Defra announcement, only this report in ENDS.

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Re: Brexit and environmental standards

Post by Sciolus » Thu Sep 17, 2020 9:19 pm

Graun story (thanks BOAF) has more, and a link to the detailed data. Presumably there is also a summary report or at least a press release somewhere as well.

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Re: Brexit and environmental standards

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu Sep 17, 2020 10:39 pm

When you fail to meet the standards, just rewrite them!

A lot of people in the sector were very optimistic that environmental standards would be upheld, because the British love nature. I hoped they were right, but my youthful pessimism so far seems to be supported.

It doesn't actually seem to matter what the public want. A handful of businesses can write the rules they want.
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