EU Environmental Policy: Its Journey to Centre Stage

EU Environmental Policy: It's Journey to Centre Stage

Authors: Nigel Haigh

Publisher: earthscan from Routledge

Price: £29.99 

The majority of voters in June’s EU referendum will not be casting
 their vote solely based on how the union has or has not swayed green performance in the UK, but this look into how environmental policy has evolved from being a marginal subject in the corridors of Brussels to one of the union’s ‘core tasks’ is nothing if not timely.

Haigh, former Director of the London office of the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) and an alumnus of the European Environmental Agency as well as the Environment Agency here in Britain, offers an independent view of that journey, comprised mainly of lectures and papers delivered over the past 30 years.

This article was taken from Issue 84

In the 1970s, the books states, it was assumed that British environmental legislation was superior to that of nations on the Continent. Instead, we, like many others, were ‘profoundly affected’ when new transnational frameworks and regulations were created. Waste, Haigh points out, has been there throughout the journey, being among the first topics covered by EU environmental legislation. A brief chapter charts the change of emphasis from waste management to resource recovery, and Europe’s development and climbing of the waste hierarchy. Now, the drive towards a circular economy is testament to the shifting core task of the EU.

The majority of the book is perhaps for the legislation-heads, as it assumes its readers have a fairly detailed knowledge of the machinations of the EU, its institutions and the many bodies that coalesce in its orbit. By basing chapters around papers given during the EU environmental policy’s journey to prominence, with only follow-up sections updating the situation, focus at times does perhaps become skewed too much towards the past.

The final chapter, however, sees David Baldock, the current Director of IEEP, break from the history lesson to look at the future of environmental
policy, and how it can remain ‘centre stage’ in the European theatre. Baldock contemplates how the growing number of member states has affected the formation of policy in the past few years, and how the Juncker Commission’s desire for a lighter touch, creating more freedom for member states, might work. Written agonisingly close to last December’s unveiling of the ‘fudged’ Circular Economy Package and, of course, the upcoming Brexit vote, the chapter looks forward to a new generation of policies and emphasises ‘the scale of the challenges ahead’. Now we just need to see if we’re involved with them.