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  • 5 Ways the EU Has Helped the Environment

5 Ways the EU Has Helped the Environment

May 25 2019 Read 1803 Times

Much of the media furore surrounding the UK’s impending exit from the EU (or perhaps just the uncertainty it has generated) has concentrated on the potentially negative economic consequences of the transition. However, fewer column inches have been devoted to the equally disastrous impact on the environment that Brexit could bring.

As the signatory of the largest programme of environmental legislation to be found anywhere in the world, it’s unsurprising that the EU helps our planet in a wide variety of ways. Here are just five of the many different laws, initiatives and directives implemented by the EU which go towards creating a greener, cleaner and more sustainable future for all of us.

Industrial emissions

First introduced in 2010, the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) regulates the level of harmful gases that power plants across the bloc are allowed to emit. The legislation was a revision of the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) directive and is itself subject to continual evaluation and revision. The informative e-learning session Compliance requirements of EU directives goes into more detail about the obligations and best practices of the most recent update of the IED.

Vehicular emissions

Committed to reducing the air pollution generated by traffic and transport, the EU has consistently encouraged constituent states to pursue environmentally-friendly vehicles in their respective countries. The Euro emissions standards - of which there are six versions to date - police the sale of new vehicles in EU members by defining the precise level of exhaust emissions that a car is allowed to produce when manufactured. While the VW scandal did highlight failings in this legislation, the EU has worked to address those concerns and clean up urban airways across the continent.

Single-use plastics

Having drastically reduced the consumption of shopping bags in many of its member states, the EU is now turning its attention to other single-use plastics. In March of this year, MEPs approved a 2021 ban on dozens of kinds of single-use items, including straws, cutlery and earbuds. The law joins others requiring members to recycle as much as 90% of plastic bottles by 2029, 70% of plastic packaging by 2030 and 60% of municipal waste by the same date. By that time, landfills should theoretically account for a mere 10% of all waste generated in the EU.

Cleaner beaches

Plastic comprises over two-thirds of all pollution found in our seas and oceans, so reducing consumption and boosting recycling should help to clean up our waterways in the long run. In the short term, the EU has also massively enhanced the state of beaches and coastal areas all across the bloc, including a marked improvement in the UK. When new rules on beach cleanliness were first adopted in the 1970s, less than 30 British beaches made the grade. Now, almost 600 do.

Pesticide control

Cross-pollinating insects such as bees are vital not only to our ecosystem, but also our economy and our way of life; they’re responsible for pollinating approximately 75% of our crops, meaning we’d struggle terribly to feed the world’s growing populace without them. A growing body of evidence demonstrated that declining bee populations were being influenced - at least to some degree - by the use of several damaging pesticides. This led to a blanket ban on neonicotinoids, introduced in April last year and enforced six months later. While the UK initially rebelled against the legislation, it has since embraced it.

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