Tackling pollution risks self-inflicted penalty

With England’s footballers eliminated from Euro 2000, it now seems that British industry could be next in line to be knocked out of another kind of European competition. And just like Phil Neville’s ill-judged tackle, it is a penalty of our own making that could be our undoing. The issue at stake is the environment. […]

With England’s footballers eliminated from Euro 2000, it now seems that British industry could be next in line to be knocked out of another kind of European competition. And just like Phil Neville’s ill-judged tackle, it is a penalty of our own making that could be our undoing.

The issue at stake is the environment. By urging the government to pledge to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by 60% by the year 2050, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution has set the barrier too high. Even worse, it is a target that has been arrived at independently of, and which far exceeds, any other European or global agreement on pollution reduction.

The fact that a carbon tax has been proposed as a mechanism to make this happen is certainly fairer and more sensible than the climate change levy, though in many cases an emissions trading scheme would be even better. But in the absence of any internationally agreed target at this level, you have to wonder why we find it necessary to create yet another way to make it more expensive to do business in the UK than abroad.

Everyone knows that many of our fellow EU partners, let alone wild-card states all over the world, will pay only lip-service to the plethora of regulations that burden industry. If there’s a gap in the traffic, the rest of the world will cross the road. In the UK we wait obediently for the green man signal to light up. Mostly, we have our own legislative system to thank for this, with its over-zealous enforcement which means we have to follow regulations to the letter. Now, with their well-meaning but totally over-ambitious targets, the eminent academics on The Royal Commission have added yet more scope for burdensome regulations.

Anyone linked with industry can see immediately that investors may be tempted to put their money in more `favourable’ regions than England – Romania springs to mind. And is it worth noting that Europe’s other `greenest’ nation, Germany (which is, perversely, trying to ban nuclear power) has also been eliminated from Euro 2000?

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