Brexit: environment and climate change Contents

Chapter 8: Resources

156.It will be a formidable task to replace EU environmental legislation with domestic legislation, developing new policies where necessary, and to fill the gap left by the environment and climate change resources that currently come from the EU.

Funding environment protection and climate change action

157.The UK receives EU funding for environment and climate change programmes from two main sources: the EU budget, and the European Investment Bank. The UK’s withdrawal from the EU thus has the potential to affect the funding landscape in significant ways.

EU budget

158.In the current EU budget period, covering 2014–2020, the UK is expected to receive more than €5.8 billion from the EU to fund projects to support the environment and tackle climate change.261 Ms Bunker, for instance, told us that much of the money spent in the UK on nature conservation came from Europe.262 Witnesses also noted the significance of EU funding for climate action: Mr Gaventa told us that “the EU budget earmarks 20% of its overall funding for climate-related activities—this is both mitigation and adaptation measures—and the UK has been a beneficiary of this in a number of different forms”.263 Mr Gaventa emphasised that “there is a significant question about … whether the climate-related commitments will be maintained at least at the current level. We would certainly like to see assurances from the UK Government on that point.”264

159.The EU budget also funds research and development, where the UK is a substantial net beneficiary. The Royal Society noted that the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) “report an indicative figure for the UK’s contribution to EU research and development of €5.4 billion over the period 2007–2013. During this time, the UK received €8.8 billion in direct EU funding for research, development and innovation activities.”265 Although by no means all of this funding is dedicated to environmental and climate change issues, the Committee on Climate Change has highlighted the significance of EU funding in this sphere.266 We note that the Chancellor has guaranteed that current commitments from EU funding streams will continue until 2020 as part of the transition to new domestic arrangements,267 but it is unclear whether funding will continue beyond that point.

160.All funding from the EU budget has of course to be offset against the UK’s net contribution, which currently stands at around £8.5 billion per annum. The Government’s white paper on Brexit stated that after leaving the EU and the Single Market “we will not be required to make vast contributions to the EU budget”, though it also acknowledged that “there may be European programmes in which we might want to participate”.268

The European Investment Bank

161.Mr Gaventa told us that the European Investment Bank (EIB) had been “a very useful instrument for low-carbon energy infrastructure investment in the UK”.269 Since 2000 energy infrastructure development in the UK has absorbed more than €37 billion in EIB loans; the Committee on Climate Change notes that this includes €6 billion towards low-carbon projects.270 Furthermore, as the (then) Environment and Climate Change Committee noted, “The UK is the biggest recipient of the EIB’s Climate Awareness Bonds for renewable energy and energy efficiency, securing 24% of total available funds”;271 and the EIB has lent more than £12.6 billion to the UK water industry since 1975 to combat flooding, river and sea pollution and for energy efficiency measures.272

162.Dr Parr doubted that the UK would continue to receive the same amount of EIB funding post-Brexit: “The experts my colleagues spoke to were, shall we say, a little sceptical that it would continue to flow on that scale when the UK ceases to be a member of the EU. There is no formal mandate or statute that says the EIB cannot lend to people outside the EU, but is it likely? I think most people would expect not.”273

163.The EIB does lend to non-EU Member States—“mostly developing countries and emerging economies around its borders”274—but 90% of its funds are spent within the EU. For advanced non-EU members, such as Norway and Switzerland, its lending, relative to the size of their economies, is roughly a tenth of its lending to Member States.275 Werner Hoyer, the president of the EIB, told the Financial Times in October 2016 that the EIB’s recent levels of lending to the UK “cannot be maintained”.276

164.The UK receives significant funding from the EU, which contributes to both environmental research and infrastructure projects with an environmental outcome, as well as to the routine management of the countryside. We invite the Government to clarify whether this funding will continue in some form or be replaced domestically post-Brexit, and, if so, for how long. If it will not be replaced by domestic funds, we call on the Government to explain by what alternative means it proposes to reach environmental goals.

Access to information and research projects in the EU

165.We have already touched on EU research funding. Mr Andrews told us:

“At the moment the UK contributes excellent first-class science on air pollution issues. There might be a risk that that is undermined by the UK not being able to access EU scientific grants and not being involved in these big cross-European studies which are so important.”277

He noted information-sharing procedures, established under both the Gothenburg Protocol278 and the NEC Directive,279 and suggested that “Rather than trying to set up new structures we should continue post-Brexit to engage fully in the structures that are already in place and are relatively effective.”280

166.Dr Parr agreed, but qualified this by saying that “the idea that [UK academics] are going to be lead investigator, with a package of EU money, when we are outside Europe is just not going to happen.”281 At the same time, he acknowledged the Government’s stated commitment to innovation and the knowledge economy, and concluded that rather than funding, his major concern was “being able to maintain that innovation through our access and involvement with other countries”. The Prime Minister has since stated that the UK will “seek agreement to continue to collaborate with our European partners on major science, research, and technology initiatives.”282

167.Quite apart from the question of funding, loss of access to and participation in research projects and information networks co-ordinated by the EU could severely hamper the UK’s environmental and climate change research efforts. We urge the Government to work to ensure that UK academics remain able to participate in research collaborations and exchanges with the EU post-Brexit, and welcome the Prime Minister’s recognition of the value of this co-operation.

Government resource

168.Although the EU’s environment and climate change policies (see box 2) have implications for many UK Government departments, the task of managing the UK’s environment and climate change policies after Brexit will predominantly fall, respectively, on Defra and BEIS. Dr Coffey acknowledged that “Defra is probably the government department most closely related and impacted by EU activity”, adding that it was in the process of redeploying, advertising and recruiting for new staff.283 We have already noted that Defra is currently recruiting up to 30 posts.284 We also note that Defra has been subject to substantial budget cuts, and that the Government’s 2015 spending review required the Department to make further resource savings of 15% by 2019/20.285

169.Dr Coffey explained that Defra’s priorities would be to “have in place a new fisheries policy and a new agriculture policy”, and “making sure that nothing falls between the cracks” in the withdrawal process.286 She also assured us that “We are not diminishing our attention on issues that will impact the UK in the near future and in the medium and long term.”287

170.Mr Andrews believed that the transfer of EU law to domestic law should be the priority: “At the moment the priority really has to be holding on to what we have got and making sure that the Great Repeal Bill really does transfer all existing legal protections. Only then can we think about actually taking things forward and improving them.”288

171.We heard concerns, however, that managing the Brexit process could leave Defra without the necessary resource to continue to engage with other areas of policy.289 Mr Gaventa suggested that “both diplomatic expertise and subject expertise will be devoted to addressing the deep complexities of the disentanglement around Brexit rather than the pressing issues that we were already facing in needing to strengthen action on climate change”.290 The Grantham Institute agreed.291

172.Ms Bunker and The Wildlife Trusts both gave the example of a Memorandum of Agreement between industry, environmental NGOs, Natural England and Government, intended to deliver greater biodiversity benefits to protected species and reduce regulatory burdens, which was due to be signed in the week following the referendum, but which had since stalled.292 The RSPB noted with concern that, despite Dr Coffey’s stated commitment to multinational agreements,293 “No Defra Minister will be attending the 13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in December 2016.”294

173.The Government faces a considerable challenge in maintaining environmental legislation through the Great Repeal Bill, while at the same time developing domestic agriculture and fisheries policies.

174.Defra and BEIS will also need to ensure that UK and EU policy developments that continue to occur outside and alongside the Brexit process receive the necessary attention from both staff and Ministers. The Government, and Defra in particular, will need a very substantial increase in resources in order to tackle these challenges, both during and after the Brexit process.

261 Greenpeace, ‘Brexit: ‘How much EU money currently goes to the environment?’, 7 October 2016: [accessed 19 January 2017]

265 The Royal Society, UK Research and the European Union: The role of the EU in funding UK research, December 2015: [accessed 19 January 2017]

266 Committee on Climate Change, Meeting Carbon Budgets: Implications of Brexit for UK climate policy, October 2016: [accessed 19 January 2017]

267 HM Treasury, Chancellor Philip Hammond guarantees EU funding beyond date UK leaves the EU, 13 August 2016: [accessed 19 January 2017]

268 HM Government, The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union, Cm 9417, February 2017, p 35: [accessed 6 February 2017]

270 Committee on Climate Change, Meeting Carbon Budgets : Implications of Brexit for UK climate policy, October 2016: [accessed 19 January 2017]

271 Energy and Climate Change Committee, The Energy Revolution and future challenges for UK energy and climate change policy (Third Report, Session 2016–17, HC 705)

272 Greenpeace, ‘Brexit: Is Billions in climate funding at risk?’, 13 October 2016: [accessed 19 January 2017]

274 Q 61 (Michael Jacobs)

275 Energy and Climate Change Committee, The Energy Revolution and future challenges for UK energy and climate change policy (Third Report, Session 2016–17, HC 705)

276 ‘EU bank chief warns of end to cheap infrastructure loans for British projects’, Financial Times, 11 October 2016

278 The European Community acceded to the Gothenburg Protocol by Council Decision 2003/507/EC of 13 June 2003, OJ L 179 (17 July 2003) p 1–2. Subsequent amendments to the Gothenburg Protocol were adopted by the EU in 2013 by Decision 2013/0448 (18 December 2013) COM(2013)917

279 Directive 2001/81/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2001 on national emission ceilings for certain atmospheric pollutants OJ L 309 (27 November 2001) pp 22–30

282 Prime Minister Theresa May, Speech on The Government’s negotiating objectives for exiting the EU, 17 January 2017: [accessed 19 January 2017]

285 HM Treasury, Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015, Cm 9162, November 2015, p 110: [accessed 6 February 2017]

289 Q 32 (Jacob Hayler)

291 Written evidence from the Grantham Institute (ECB0004)

292 Written evidence from The Wildlife Trusts (ECB0007); 16

294 Written evidence from the RSPB (ECB0006)

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