New report highlights the importance of environmental regulation in England

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The Chief Executive of the Environment Agency (EA) has called for a ‘modern approach to regulation’ in order to protect air, land, and water from future threats, including the climate emergency as the EA publishes the annual report of its regulation work.

Comprising data from regulatory activities in 2019, the ‘Regulation for people, the Environment and Growth’-report shows many improving trends in environmental compliance, pollution incidents, crime, and emissions, including:

  • The EA reports to have processed around 320,000 transactions for businesses and individuals.
  • The EA reports to have stopped illegal waste activity at 940 sites, 3% more than the previous year.
  • The EA reports to have inspected 1,889 containers to help prevent illegal waste exports.
  • Businesses and individuals were fined £4.4 million for environmental offences.

Sir James Bevan, CEO of the Environment Agency, commented on the report: “The economic damage done by Coronavirus means we need rapid recovery and the kind of regulation to facilitate that. And after leaving the EU, the UK has the opportunity to set its own rules and modernise regulation.

“But we must avoid false choices. Better regulation isn’t code for deregulation. The test for any changes in legislation must be that they will deliver better environmental outcomes as well as being good for the economy.

“Good regulation isn’t complicated, bureaucratic, and costly; it is simple, impactful, and money-saving. The best regulation will stop environmental damage at the source, rather than the costly impact to the public purse and the environment of responding to damage after the event.

“We also need the right resources, funded by operators and by Government, to deliver the high ambitions we all have in enhancing our environment. Ultimately we will get the environment we are prepared to pay for.

“This report shows that regulation works. And now we must look at how we use regulation to tackle the climate emergency – the biggest of all threats to our environment, our economy, and our planet.

“We are already playing a significant role through regulation, by enabling the technologies needed to decarbonise the UK economy, including nuclear, hydrogen, and carbon capture, and we have launched the new UK Emissions Trading Scheme.

“But as we and our world continue to change, we must not allow the environment to be left behind.”

Since 2010, the EA reports that emissions of air pollutants have fallen ‘significantly’ (nitrogen oxides by 63%, sulphur oxides by 81%, PM10 particulates by 34%), the number of serious pollution incidents fell 12% to 467 from 2018 to 2019, and waste recovery at permitted sites has improved to a record 74%.

The full Regulating for People, Environment and Growth report is available on the EA website.