United Kingdom

   

Environmental Policies

#9
Key Findings
As a strong voice for environmental protection internationally, the United Kingdom receives a high overall ranking (rank 9) for its environmental policies. Its score on this measure has gained 0.4 points relative to its 2014 level.

Despite strong environmental rhetoric, subsidies for green energy have been cut in recent years, and the government has intensified support for fracking and nuclear power. 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.

Upon taking office, Prime Minister May dissolved the Department of Energy and Climate Change, merging it with the newly established Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. 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 announced plans to relax regulations for on-shore wind farms and natural-gas fracking. Following a public consultation, it has developed plans to reduce plastics use, including a new plastics tax.

Environment

#10

How effectively does environmental policy protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment?

10
 9

Environmental policy effectively protects, preserves and enhances the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 8
 7
 6


Environmental policy largely protects and preserves the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 5
 4
 3


Environmental policy insufficiently protects and preserves the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 2
 1

Environmental policy has largely failed to protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
Environmental Policy
7
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 government has 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.

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, fosters their advancement and initiates 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 fosters their advancement or initiates appropriate reforms.
 5
 4
 3


The government demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, but neither fosters their advancement nor initiates 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. Although the government remained skeptical about global environmental protection regimes, even though they were consistent with nationally pursued policies.

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 announced plans to deregulate the permission process for the construction of on-shore wind farms to raise the United Kingdom’s share of renewable energies, although it also supports relaxing regulation on fracking for natural gas.

Prime Minister May pledged to ratify the Paris climate change deal by the end of 2016 and the government duly did so 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.

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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