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Joan Edwards

Joan Edwards is the Head of Living Seas at The Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts.

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Balance of Competences - an audit of what the EU does, and how this affects the UK

Posted: Monday 20th May 2013 by LivingSeas

Looe Island - Clare Lewis

Today, the UK Government launched its review into EU environment and climate change regulation. It forms part of a review of the Balance of Competences between the UK and the EU - an audit of what the EU does, and how this affects the UK.

European legislation helps us to manage common resources such as our climate and has brought in policies to help improve our water and air quality and has resulted in the most stringent protection of our habitats and species, especially at sea where national legislation is lagging far behind and, recently, has stalled again (see my most recent blogs on this).

In many cases, EU policy has led the way, resulting in far more stringent legislation, including the bathing water directive, habitats and birds directive and the air quality directive than may well have been in place if we had relied on national policy.

There are areas where these EU policies can be improved, and certainly areas where guidance and information about the regulations could be made clearer and more accessible. However, what is clear is that many of the decisions we take about the environment have huge impacts, not just nationally. Air and water quality can have far reaching impacts, as well as decisions on the quota of fish that we take from our seas. One of the biggest challenges facing us at the moment, climate change, cannot be tackled at a national level. We need to work in collaboration with our neighbours, and wider to ensure that decisions taken have the biggest impact.

From The Wildlife Trusts point of view, what is clear is that we need to continue to make the case for the importance of protecting and improving our environment. Our environment provides us with vital services that underpin our economy. We will robustly respond to this review, to highlight the importance of environmental legislation. We need to ensure that short term economic aims do not end up undermining our environment and ultimately, our economic future.

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