United Kingdom

   

Environmental Policies

#6
Key Findings
As a strong voice for environmental protection, the United Kingdom falls into the top ranks internationally (rank 6) for its environmental policies. Its score on this measure has gained 0.7 points relative to its 2014 level.

Despite strong environmental rhetoric, subsidies for green energy have been cut in recent years. Market-based mechanisms continue to inform environmental policy, paired with planning systems such the effort to protect green belts around urban areas. Some ecological programs have fallen victim to spending cuts.

Public opposition to natural-gas fracking has prevailed, and companies are abandoning drilling plans. Much environmental policy has been determined by the EU. While some post-Brexit divergence is possible, the UK is expected to maintain most large commitments.

The government ratified the Paris climate-change accord in late 2016. It has also boosted the construction of on- and off-shore wind farms. Following a public consultation, it has developed plans to reduce plastics use, including a new plastics tax. Environmental protest movements have prompted all major parties to promise stronger policies in the future.

Environment

#8

How effectively does environmental policy in your country protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and environmental quality?

10
 9

Environmental policy goals are ambitious and effectively implemented as well as monitored within and across most relevant policy sectors that account for the largest share of resource use and emissions.
 8
 7
 6


Environmental policy goals are mainly ambitious and effectively implemented and are monitored within and across some of the relevant policy sectors that account for the largest share of resource use and emissions.
 5
 4
 3


Environmental policy goals are neither particularly ambitious nor are they effectively implemented and coordinated across relevant policy sectors.
 2
 1

Environmental concerns have been largely abandoned.
Environmental Policy
8
Environmental goals were ostensibly close to the heart of both governments led by David Cameron. Yet, some critics have expressed dismay at cuts in subsidies for green energy, and an increase in government support for natural gas fracking and nuclear power. The latter was reaffirmed in the decision to proceed with new reactors, but recent re-assessments of the commercial viability of nuclear energy may prevent it happening. The coalition government (2010 – 2015) set itself the goal of becoming “the greenest government ever,” and its Conservative successor governments have not noticeably changed tack. However, worries about the cost of living led the government to suspend automatic increases in fuel duties for seven years in succession, and there have been rumblings of discontent over the 2008 Climate Change Act, which forms the legislative foundation for climate-change polices.

In many areas, the Cameron government continued previous government’s initiatives. For example, market-based environmental policy mechanisms, and a planning system designed to preserve and protect “green belts” around major conurbations. The “eco towns” initiative of the former Labour government, promoting low carbon emissions, renewable energy, expansive green space and high recycling rates, was substantially scaled back due to spending cuts.

After taking over from Cameron in July 2016, Prime Minister Theresa May dissolved the Department of Energy and Climate Change, which had existed since 2008, merging it into the newly established Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. This step was harshly criticized by environmentalist groups. In her keynote speech at the Conservative and Unionist Party Conference, Prime Minister May did not mention any environmental topics beyond the ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement which took place on 11 November 2016. In a speech given at the U.N. General Assembly in September 2017 she stressed again the importance of staying within that agreement. There are renewed signs under the current environment minister, Michael Gove, that environmental policy will feature more prominently in the government’s agenda in the future, while air quality has become an issue of growing public concern.

Much environmental policy is still determined by the European Union (e.g., the Water Framework Directive or the Biodiversity Agenda) beyond which there is little space for nationally specific initiatives. After “Brexit,” some divergence from the European Union could occur, although there is no reason to believe that the United Kingdom will renege on big issues such as the Paris climate accord. Renewable water resources have never been an issue for the United Kingdom, although utility companies are being encouraged to reduce leaks and improve sewerage. Forestry policy is a devolved competence. In England there is Forestry Commission, which has responsibility for both tress and biodiversity.

The “#FridaysForFuture” movement and the more radical “Extinction Rebellion” group have – like in many other European countries – pushed climate policy into the limelight and elicited commitments from all parties to do more during the 2019 election campaign.

Global Environmental Protection

#8

To what extent does the government actively contribute to the design and advancement of global environmental protection regimes?

10
 9

The government actively contributes to international efforts to design and advance global environmental protection regimes. In most cases, it demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, contributes to their being advanced and has introduced appropriate reforms.
 8
 7
 6


The government contributes to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes. It demonstrates commitment to existing regimes and occasionally contributes to their being advanced and/or has introduced some appropriate reforms.
 5
 4
 3


The government demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, but does not contribute to their being advanced and has not introduced appropriate reforms.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes.
Global Environmental Policy
9
Under the Conservative governments of John Major (1990 – 1997), there was a policy shift and the United Kingdom became one of the foremost advocates of environmental protection standards in the European Union. The United Kingdom ratified the Kyoto Protocol.

The United Kingdom has consistently pursued environmental protection and the reduction of carbon emissions. The coalition government of 2010 continued the carbon emissions targets for 2020 set by the preceding Labour government. The new Conservative government is likely to maintain this approach.

The Conservative government has boosted the construction of both on-shore and off-shore wind farms to raise the United Kingdom’s share of renewable energies. Having previously encouraged fracking for natural gas, it now appears that public opposition to it has prevailed and companies in the sector are abandoning plans to continue drilling.

The United Kingdom ratified the Paris climate change deal at the Marrakech COP 22 summit in November 2016. The United Kingdom continues to be in the mainstream of European opinion on these issues and has deplored the Trump administration’s rejection of COP 21. Following a large-scale public consultation, the government plans to introduce new measures to curb the use of plastics, including plans to introduce a plastics tax announced in the October 2018 budget, arguably demonstrating international leadership. The international aid budget includes “clean energy” projects.

Citations:
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/752202/Budget_2018_red_web.pdf see page 48
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