Brexit would threaten industry investment and vision

Brexit would threaten industry investment and visionHeads of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) and SUEZ recycling and recovery UK have reiterated the findings of a parliamentary inquiry into the environmental impact of a potential Brexit, saying that it would threaten investment and remove vision from the industry in the UK.

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) yesterday (19 April) released its report following an inquiry into the EU’s impact on the UK’s environmental policy. It concluded that membership of the EU has been a ‘crucial factor’ in shaping the nation’s environmental policies and that a decision to leave the union in June’s referendum would trigger a ‘long and tortuous negotiation’ that would leave businesses in long-term uncertainty.

Brexit would threaten industry investment

SUEZ recycling and recovery UK was one of the industry members to present written evidence to the inquiry, and the company’s Chief Executive David Palmer-Jones responded to the report, saying it endorses the company’s view that membership of the EU has underpinned the pace of environmental action in the UK, raising the appreciation of water and waste as resources to support jobs and investment.

Brexit would threaten industry investment and vision
David Palmer-Jones
Leaving the EU, Palmer-Jones said, could stymie private and public development and investment in the industry, and seriously damage the nation’s circular economy ambitions: “[It] would be detrimental to the environmental services sector because the EU is the driving force behind much of the environmental policy and legislation which enables companies like SUEZ to invest in new services and infrastructure.

“Should the UK referendum be decided in favour of a Brexit and the UK leave the EU, there is a clear risk that the current EU-led policy drives towards creating a circular economy within the UK will stall or even move back a step, which in turn could have a negative impact on future investment decisions into UK infrastructure.”

Palmer-Jones added that the UK’s move towards a circular economy has been set thanks to policy decisions agreed at an EU level. This includes the current EU-driven, UK household waste recycling rate target of 50 per cent by 2020, which he stated has provided the underpinning for hundreds of millions of pounds of investment into recycling facilities and energy recovery plants, creating “thousands of jobs in the UK”.

He also predicted that this investment could increase, with the EU considering a 65 per cent household recycling target for 2030. Should this become a legally-binding target across member states, the SUEZ chief said it would stimulate further investment and jobs in the UK: “Without this next new target, the next stage of infrastructure and jobs creation across our sector could be put at risk. We have an opportunity to extract more value from the resources in our waste stream and put them back into the economy. 

“We anticipate that a Brexit would also trigger a re-evaluation of major infrastructure investments across the industry, from waste and recycling to resource management and energy recovery projects. In total there is the potential to create thousands of new jobs should we move the UK more fully from a throw-away society to a recycle, reuse and recovery based economy in a way that is currently envisaged under the latest EU-led policy drivers.” 

EU provides ‘stability and vision’

CIWM, which represents waste management professionals, has also backed the EAC’s report, with Chief Executive Steve Lee saying that its conclusions matched with CIWM’s and many other stakeholders’ written evidence: “We said that the EU provides a valuable vehicle through which overarching policy frameworks can be agreed to promote sustainable waste and resource management and ensure consistent approaches, standards and markets across Europe.

Steve Lee
“We also highlighted the benefits of the longer-term nature of EU legislation that is not subject to national politics and the electoral cycle and can provide long-term certainty to promote market confidence and investment. Finally, CIWM acknowledged the important role that the EU Circular Economy Package could play in shaping the future of our sector and driving resource efficiency and productivity in the UK in the coming decades.

“These are all important points from a number of perspectives. Not only has EU policy both underpinned improvements in our environmental performance and benefitted from our presence in its formulation, but it has also provided the stability and vision that has allowed us to be one of the most dynamic and fast growing sectors during the challenging economic conditions of the last 10 years. With so much more potential to deliver on jobs, green growth, business productivity and competitiveness, the UK must at least maintain the momentum and direction of travel set by the EU, regardless of the outcome of the referendum in June.”

Further details on the Environmental Audit Committee’s report into EU and UK environmental policy can be found in Resource’s previous news story.