Environment Agency chief executive argues 'good regulation is what gets you green growth and a blue planet'
Good regulation is essential for tackling the climate emergency and kickstarting the economy in the wake of Covid-19, the chief executive of the Environment Agency (EA) will argue this morning, in a speech examining the UK's plans for post-Brexit environmental governance.
"Good regulation is what gets you green growth and a blue planet," Sir James Bevan will say in a speech to be delivered to the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
"Let me be clear that I am against red tape, if by red tape we mean regulation for its own sake," he will tell the audience of UK business leaders. "But regulation - good regulation - is essential. Good regulation protects people and the environment from harm. Good regulation creates a level playing field for business, allowing well-run companies to thrive and stopping those who don't want to play by the rules from undercutting them. Good regulation drives growth and innovation."
Bevan will use his speech to highlight the opportunities for enhanced environmental management that could be created once the UK fully leaves the EU at the end of this year.
As such he will call for a repeal of the EU Floods Directive, which requires member states to carry out flood risk assessments, create maps of flood risk and develop flood risk management plans, arguing the EA has been taking such measures since long before the EU regulation come into force.
He is set to praise the EU's Water Framework Directive, a wide-ranging water management regulation, while advocating for "thoughtful reform" of the rule.
"It forces regulators and others to focus a lot of time and resources on indicators that may not make much difference to the actual water quality, at the expense of others which we would be better focusing on," Bevan will say.
But at the same time Bevan is expected to emphasise that he does not support a "slash and burn" approach to EU regulations, pointing to the EU's Bathing Water Directive as an example of a rule the UK should retain and praising its positive impact on water quality at UK beaches.
He is also expected to reiterate the Agency's support for the UK's net zero emissions target and set out the case for the use of targetted regulations to help curb emissions.
"The biggest of all threats we face - to our environment, our economy, our future - is the climate emergency," Bevan will say. "And the climate emergency is a great example of where regulation works and can stimulate not choke business."
The government has repeatedly stressed that it will not water down UK environmental protections following the end of the Brexit transition period, arguing it will instead use the freedom provided by leaving the EU to enhance green rules and ensure they are more effective for the UK.
However, green groups remain concerned Brexit could open the door to a dilution of environmental standards and a weakening of enforcement mechanisms - concerns that have been amplified by the UK government's refusal to include a range of specific environmental commitments in the proposed free trade deal with the EU.
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