Environmental Audit Committee finds EU membership has been positive for the UK environment

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MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee have said that being part of the European Union has benefitted the UK’s environment.

In a report looking at the environment and how the UK has gained from being part of the EU, MPs said that EU membership helped to give the UK a platform to pursue its international objectives on the environment.

It also helped to ensure that environmental action was taken in the UK on a faster timetable.

Environmental Audit Committee chair Mary Creagh MP (pictured) said that the overwhelming majority of witnesses to the committee were clear that there were benefits to solving environmental problems multilaterally as part of the EU.

She said: “Inside the EU we can influence and improve EU environmental law. Our voice at the Paris climate change conference was louder because we were part of a club of 28 countries.

“Environmental problems don’t respect borders. When it comes to protecting our natural environment and dealing with global problems like climate change, the overwhelming evidence is EU membership has improved the UK’s approach to the environment and ensured that the UK’s environment has been better protected.”

Suez recycling and recovery UK chief executive David Palmer-Jones welcomed the report. He said: “Leaving the EU would be detrimental to the environmental services sector because the EU is the driving force behind much of the environmental policy and legislation which enables companies like SUEZ to invest in new services and infrastructure.

“Should the UK referendum be decided in favour of a Brexit and the UK leave the EU, there is a clear risk that the current EU-led policy drives towards creating a circular economy within the UK will stall or even move back a step, which in turn could have a negative impact on future investment decisions into UK infrastructure.

“The UK’s move towards a circular economy has been set thanks to policy decisions agreed at an EU level to which the UK has signed up. The current EU-driven, UK household waste recycling rate target of 50% by 2020 has provided the underpinning for hundreds of millions of pounds of investment into recycling facilities and energy recovery plants, creating to date thousands of jobs in the UK.

“The EU is now considering a 65% household recycling target for 2030 and if this becomes a legally binding target across member states – including the UK – it would stimulate further investment and jobs in the UK. Without this next new target, the next stage of infrastructure and jobs creation across our sector could be put at risk. We have an opportunity to extract more value from the resources in our waste stream and put them back into the economy. 

“We anticipate that a Brexit would also trigger a re-evaluation of major infrastructure investments across the industry, from waste and recycling to resource management and energy recovery projects. In total there is the potential to create thousands of new jobs should we move the UK more fully from a throw-away society to a recycle, re-use and recovery based economy in a way that is currently envisaged under the latest EU-led policy drivers. 

“Suez as a company supports the UK’s continued membership of the EU because we believe that it’s the right thing for the environment and our sector.”