UK group urges risk-based green rules

Flexibility, not zero impact policies, required for sustainability, argues business association

Environmental regulation should be based more on a risk management approach and less on "prescriptive regulations," the UK's main industry association said in a report released today. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) called on regulators to adopt approaches used in British health and safety regulation, which it says enable resources to be directed to where there is the most benefit. Overall, the body argues, risk assessment "can be seen as a practical interpretation of sustainable development". In addition to arguing for "adaptive" risk management in place of prescriptive regulation, the CBI also contrasts risk-based approaches with what it sees as a growing trend towards hazard-based regulation. An international agreement reached this summer under the Ospar convention that emissions of certain hazardous substances to the North Sea should be virtually eliminated by 2020 is identified as a case in point. The drive towards zero impact "can divert resources from broader controls that would have a greater environmental benefit, or from industries with lower hazards but potentially greater risks," the CBI argues. The association called on the UK government to promote "goal-setting, risk-based" approaches in the EU and elsewhere.

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