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BEIS, Brexit and the Budget

Posted By Phil Underwood, 13 December 2017
Updated: 13 December 2017

A policy update by Dr Tatum Matharu, Policy and Parliamentary Lead

As expected, autumn has been busy in the Houses and in Whitehall, specifically BEIS, which we turn to first for two major publications: the long-awaited Clean Growth Strategy and the Industrial Strategy White Paper. 

My first update for the Society focused on our response to the Industrial Strategy Green Paper, which was published in January of this year and closed for comments in April. Coming full circle in a year, we’re still left hoping for the circular economy the Industrial Strategy could deliver. It certainly nods to resource efficiency, and even includes this diagram from the excellent Ellen MacArthur Foundation: 

(Industrial Strategy: Building a Britain Fit for the Future: pg. 150)

However, this is overshadowed by the document’s preoccupation with energy efficiency. And the emphasis of energy efficiency in this strategy, alongside its sister strategy of clean growth, is to be welcomed; the purpose of the Industrial Strategy is to increase productivity (and hence improve our economic performance), which would generally result in higher carbon output, which we can’t afford – both in terms of price (a central concern for BEIS) and in terms of the environment (a central concern for us all) – so moves to mitigate our reliance on energy and to decarbonise the economy are certainly appropriate and commendable. As is the apparent integration of energy and clean growth considerations across the White Paper’s ‘five foundations of productivity’ (which, seemingly, have been whittled down from the Green Paper’s 10 pillars). 

We’d still like to see deeper engagement with the concepts of sustainability and resilience across this Industrial Strategy as well as further integrated or ‘joined-up’ thinking and regulation that, whilst being ‘agile’ and ‘simple’, is also fit for (its protective) purpose. But it’s time now to turn attention to (our) practice. I recently held a workshop, facilitated by GK Strategy and their Strategic Adviser, the Rt. Hon. David Laws, during which policy-focused colleagues from our Licensed Bodies and policy-enthused volunteers from our Council came together to decide our policy priorities for 2018 and beyond. The Industrial Strategy, specifically its implementation and how it can be ‘greened’ in practice, came out on top. This could well be the post-Brexit policy intervention of our time; it may not hold the environment front and centre as the 25 year plan will (hopefully), but the reality of economic drivers will prioritise this piece and we can, together, ensure that environmental professionals and their good practice can deliver environmental sustainability and resilience through the range of industrial sectors that make up the UK economy. I’m knee-deep in behind-the-scenes work (and snow!) but watch this space for developments (or get in touch to get involved!). 

But now to present-tense Brexit… Progress here has been sluggish, not only in terms of the high-level negotiations in the headlines but also the EU (Withdrawal) Bill’s delayed return to the Commons, given the hundreds of amendments tabled. This latter delay was, to some extent, welcomed and reassuring as it demonstrates that the Bill could not be simply steamrolled through the democratic process – concerns, including those of environmentalists, were heard and represented. But this does have a knock-on effect and the Society, alongside members of the Environmental Policy Forum, is concerned that time is running out to develop the hundreds of statutory instruments required to have a functioning statue book on exit day. We’ve aired our concerns (read more here), whilst also welcoming the Secretary of State for Defra’s consideration of an Environmental Commission, which should alleviate some of the concerns we’ve previously raised around environmental governance. 

CIWM’s CEO, Dr Colin Church, has helpfully detailed the background of the potential post-Brexit gaps in environmental accountability and governance in the CIWM Journal. And CIEEM have worked up the detail of what is needed to protect and enhance the environment post-Brexit, which includes an independent scrutiny body – OfEnv – and a new Environment Act; read more from Jason Reeves, CIEEM’s Policy Manager, here. The Society continues to work with colleagues at CIWM and CIEEM as well as other Licensed Bodies and beyond under the banner of the Environmental Policy Forum, harnessing and enhancing the weight of our collective influence through its role as secretariat, with our Chair at the helm. This is the main forum for our continued Brexit efforts, so keep up to date using the EPF section of our website.  

Finally, no autumn is complete, now, without our only-annual Budget. We have a brief overview from IEMA (click the links to find out more), and an equally brief but wider perspective from IMechE. Plus, we’ve some deeper analysis from CIOB, and from IES, which takes us back to the Industrial Strategy – our focus for a green 2018. 

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