The recent examples of diesel, beaches and bees
Supporters of the EU cite clean beaches and beneficial environmental legislation as benefits of membership. While the blue flags for clean beaches did follow membership of the EU it is dismissive of British citizens and their institutions to assume that they would not have been achieved by the demands of British democracy and the needs of communities that rely on tourism. EU environmental legislation in fact has two fundamental flaws.
The first flaw is that its main driver in the EU is not the environment but competition law. Its purpose is to prevent individual countries in the EU from using ‘environmental’ legislation to give a competitive edge to their own industries.
In many cases this has achieved the opposite, with firms making environmental performance claims to gain competitive advantage. German car manufacturers promoted their diesel engine cars as they have lower carbon dioxide emissions than petrol engines, neglecting to mention that they have higher nitrogen oxide emissions which are very harmful to human health. To make matters worse they exaggerated the claims and installed cheating software, which was discovered in the US market and overlooked by the EU.
The second flaw is that environmental action limits the co-operation to EU countries instead of basing co-operation on environmental needs which are often more global. Migrant birds in Britain fly from Russia and Scandinavia to winter here and come from Africa in our summer. They fly through Europe but in general do not breed there. Genuine environmental co-operation therefore must include many more countries than those in the EU and be driven by science and the needs of the environment, not the political demands of elites of EU supporters.
The corporate lobbyists who very much determine EU Directives and Treaties include many powerful corporations from the chemical industry and their voice can be heard behind delays and derogations in the use of pesticides (neonicotinoids) causing damage to bee populations for example.
At a European level, the issue of neonicotinoids is far from settled. The European Commission had placed a two-year moratorium on three kinds of neonicotinoids: clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. This moratorium expired in December 2015 and is currently under review.
According to Vytenis Andriukaitis, the European Commissioner for Health, the question of extending the moratorium could be discussed if the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reveals new information in its next study on the pesticides. But no publication date is yet planned. French government attempts to ban these bee killing chemicals have been met with prevarication and derogation clauses. Meanwhile bee populations are in grave danger throughout the continent.
The most successful Environmental co-operation has been the action to close the Ozone holes over the poles. It involved co-operation by all the world’s nations.
It is noteworthy that Caroline Lucas, the MP representing the Green Party, which claims to make the environment their key concern, is a supporter of the EU. However the Greens’ economic programme is in opposition to key EU principles as it requires limiting the operation of the market internationally through exchange controls and limiting capital flows for speculation. These measures, are not allowed by the EU’s ‘freedom of movement of capital’. As in much else the EU serves the interests of the large transnational corporations. A ‘green haze’ cannot hide this fundamental.