Brexit could cause the UK to backslide on waste and lead to an increase in the use of dangerous chemicals, according to a new report out today.
The report by the think tank Green Alliance, on behalf of the business group the Circular Economy Task Force, highlights several environmental challenges the UK could face after leaving the EU.
These include leaving the EU’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals programme (REACH), which would mean the instant loss of access to a world-leading database on chemical safety.
It has been suggested the UK could set up its own regime, but the report notes this would be very expensive, and would duplicate bureaucracy and safety testing, including on animals.
The report also warns the disappearance of EU ecodesign standards in the UK risks opening up the domestic market to substandard products from other countries.
And with the EU’s current recycling targets set to expire in 2020 and no Whitehall promise to replace them, the report warns Britain could backslide on recycling and tackling waste.
The Green Alliance’s senior policy adviser on resources, Libby Peake, said Britain is at a ‘crossroads’.
‘We can either improve our protections and use of resources or revert to simple waste management,’ said Ms Peake.
‘The wrong decisions could harm our environment, businesses and citizens. But people didn’t vote to increase animal testing or to be exposed to more dangerous chemicals and shoddy products.’
The chief executive of CIWM and the chair of the Circular Economy Task Force, Colin Church, added: ‘In the EU or out, the UK is part of a global market where European standards on recycling, products and chemicals have set the benchmark for keeping us and our environment safe and healthy.
‘This is something recognised by the vast majority of people. Clearly, we need to keep to those standards and protections, if not better them.’
‘Bin or bypass Brexit’
The report comes after experts and politicians took part in an event at the University of Dundee to discuss the impact Brexit might have on Scotland’s renewables industry.
Speaking before the event, one of the keynote speakers and former first minister Alex Salmond, warned Brexit is a ‘fundamental challenge’.
‘We are leaving the European Union at precisely the time when energy policy is evolving into a more substantial form,’ said Mr Salmond. ‘A loss of access to research funding and the flow of people with ideas from Europe may bring about huge damage to Scotland’s renewable pre-eminence.
‘If we really want to become the green energy powerhouse of the continent then we require to bin or bypass Brexit and establish Scotland’s political power lines with Europe.’
The event was chaired by Peter Cameron, director of the University’s Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy.
‘Renewable energy was a key focus of Alex Salmond’s government and delegates will hear his views on how the industry may fare post-Brexit,’ said Professor Cameron before the event.
‘The future could be positive since Scotland and the EU are committed to meeting demanding renewable energy targets, but there are concerns over what happens if companies based here cannot access EU markets and over the industry’s regulatory framework. What happens in the Brexit negotiations is of vital importance to the renewables sector in Scotland.’
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