Experts to assess future of industry regulation

UK group aims to strengthen links between pollution control, sustainable development

A group of leading UK environmental experts is to address how industrial pollution control can be linked more strongly to sustainable development goals, amid fears that rapid economic and social changes could leave regulatory systems out of date. The group will particularly address implications for implementing the 1996 EU directive on integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC). Like many other EU countries, the UK is still in the process of transposing the directive into national law.

The commission on industrial regulation and sustainable development is being coordinated by one of the UK's oldest environmental groups, the National Society for Clean Air (NSCA). Chaired by the chief of Norsk Hydro in Britain, John Speirs, it also includes head of the Scottish environmental protection agency and ex-chairman of the European Parliament's environment committee Ken Collins, and Nigel Haigh, a board member of the European Environment Agency.

According to the NSCA's secretary general Richard Mills, a main impetus for the commission's launch was a growing concern that traditional industrial regulation could be left stranded by a wave of change in the broader political context.

Industrial structures are changing, with the rise of the internet and a growing proportional importance of SMEs in causing pollution. Policy instruments are becoming more diverse, with a continuing shift from old-style "command and control" regulations to economic instruments, environmental management systems. The focus of environmental attention is increasingly products rather than industrial plants. Traditional regulatory structures are being challenged by globalisation. The rise of stakeholders is forcing the relationship between regulators and regulated firms to become more open.

Due to report its findings before the end of 2001, the commission will take an EU-wide perspective, according to Mr Mills, and will look for ways to ensure that the IPPC directive can adapt to the sustainable development agenda. "The directive is a very flexible framework," he said, "but unless it is used imaginatively then it could become out of date, such is the pace of change," he said.

Follow Up:
NSCA, tel: +44 1273 326 313.

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