28 Nov 2016

Environmental Governance after the EU: The Need to Ensure Accountability

Delivering Brexit raises fundamental political, legal and administrative questions, for the environment and beyond. In this blog post, Prof Maria Lee (UCL) and Prof Liz Fisher (Oxford) discuss the issue of environmental governance and highlight three necessary steps to ensure continued accountability once outside of the European Union.

Ensuring environmental quality is a feature of all functioning democracies and thus all such democracies have environmental law. But environmental problems are never solved by a statute or a court case. Legislation does not magic away waste. A court case will not ensure the enduring protection of endangered species. What is needed is the ongoing management of complex environmental problems in a reasoned and legitimate way that both complies with, and is within, the law. That is why environmental law is as much about environmental governance as environmental standards – it is about public institutions directing, regulating, authorising, guarding, and being responsible for environmental protection.

24 Nov 2016

#BrexitResearch: Parliament taps academic expertise

Prof Andy Jordan (University of East Anglia), lead author of the expert review on EU membership and the UK environment

In November, Parliament threw open its doors to academics specialising in Brexit. With the implications of the Brexit vote still opaque and much debated, Parliamentary staff, MPs’ researchers and academic researchers are keen to absorb as much new information as they can. They came together in Portcullis House to learn from one another.

In his opening address, the Director of Library Services, Patrick Vollmer, explained that over the summer, it had quickly become apparent that Brexit could not possibly be processed in the same ‘business as usual’ manner that Parliament had processed every other topic in the post war period. It was simply too systemic, too uncertain and too long term. Thirty two separate select committee inquires on Brexit are already in progress and that is before the ‘super’ Brexit committee chaired by Hilary Benn has properly got into its stride. 

Brexit: An Academic Conference was one of Parliament’s responses to the dawning realisation that Brexit presents an existential challenge to parliament and government. After a referendum campaign marred by disregard for ‘expert’ input, the organisers were motivated by the view that ‘it is more important than ever that Parliamentary scrutiny and debate is informed by robust and reliable evidence’. 

7 Nov 2016

Brexit will test the UK’s capacities to their limits — and possibly beyond.

Prof Andy Jordan, University of East Anglia

One of our funders, the ESRC’s UK in a Changing Europe Initiative has published a thoughtful new paper which seeks to explore the challenges of implementing Brexit.  The team, led by Professor Anand Menon, offers a stark warning: “Brexit has the potential to test the UK’s constitutional settlement, legal framework, political process and bureaucratic capacities to their limits — and possibly beyond.”

After the High Court dropped its bombshell on the Government’s Brexit plans last week, its contribution is both timely and also very prescient given that it was written before the High Court’s ruling.

The team identifies several challenges. First of all is the difficulty of completing the Article 50 process. Working out the terms of the divorce settlement will be “tricky and hideously technical”, says Menon’s team, but establishing a new, future relationship with the EU will be even harder they conclude.

1 Nov 2016

Leaving the EU: implications for Wales (Environment & Marine)

Yesterday two EUrefEnv authors, Dr Richard Cowell from the University of Cardiff, co-author of our Land Use and Planning chapter, and Dr Charlotte Burns from the University of York, lead author, gave evidence to the Welsh Assembly committee in charge of examining the implications for Wales of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.


You can watch the evidence session (start time 14:26), part of a whole afternoon of discussions about Brexit, Welsh devolution and the environment.

31 Oct 2016

Heathrow expansion in the shadow of Brexit

Viviane Gravey, Queen's University Belfast 

 After decades of debate on where – and whether – to expand airport capacity in south-eastern England, the UK government announced two days ago that it would favour building a third runway at Heathrow Airport. This option, highly criticised on environmental grounds (notably due to the air pollution caused by road transport to the airport) has been presented by Prime Minister Theresa May as key to show the world that the UK is ‘open for business’ after Brexit.

 Brexit is not just a handy justification for expanding Heathrow: it will also make it easier, although still highly complicated, to build the third runway. While political obstacles to expanding Heathrow remain –  from local authorities affected and divisions within the Conservative Party – Brexit is likely to remove the principal legal obstacles to the plan.

26 Oct 2016

Brexit: environment and climate change

The House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Subcommittee is currently conducting a short inquiry in Brexit, the environment and climate change. EUrefEnv lead author, Prof Andy Jordan, together with UCL Environment Prof Maria Lee & Prof Richard MacRory gave evidence to the Subcommittee this morning.

You can watch a video of the hearing here.

The following Storify provides some highlights from the discussion:

19 Oct 2016

Energy & Climate after the EU referendum: the last Commons Energy & Climate Change Committee Report

On Monday, the Commons ECC published its last report, "The energy revolution and future challenges for UK energy and climate change policy". The 90-pages report brings to an end the Committee, (which will be replaced by the Commons BEIS committee), by tying together the results of a number of short-term inquiries -- including this Summer's Energy Policy after the EU referendum and Climate Policy after the EU referendum.

The report brings together evidence from civil society, businesses and academics, including from EUrefEnv authors, Tim Rayner, Brendan Moore, Sebastian Oberthür and Andrew Jordan.

It concludes that "The UK’s departure from the EU is not expected to change the general direction of UK energy policy, since this is perceived to be driven primarily by the Climate Change Act 2008, and domestic concerns about supply security and affordability. However, the absence of external enforcement and accountability mechanisms could weaken the imperative to deliver on policy targets. EU energy and climate change policies have historically played an important role in underpinning UK policy and providing a ‘double-lock’ to decarbonisation commitments. This has bolstered investor confidence by providing policy stability beyond the five-year domestic parliamentary cycle."