The government’s green policies are incoherent and fail to achieve their objectives in combating climate change, the manufacturers’ trade body has said.
Firms were polled by the EEF on current green policies, including measures to monitor carbon dioxide emissions, rules on energy efficiency and reporting on companies’ environmental performance.
A large majority said they often went further than the government’s stipulations, but said the bureaucracy involved in complying with the regulations was time-consuming and inefficient. In some cases, companies are covered by as many as five different regulatory regimes. This made complying with the regulations complex and costly, they said.
For instance, some companies face a new responsibility â€“ outlined by the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, in June â€“ to report on their greenhouse gas emissions, but they may already need to seek carbon permits from the European Union’s emissions trading scheme to comply with regulations, and may also be caught by the government’s carbon reduction commitment, the carbon floor price and climate change agreements designed to cut emissions through incentives rather than penalties.
Terry Scuoler, chief executive of the EEF, called on the government to streamline environmental regulation.
He said: “The government’s policies are failing to match industry’s own ambitions, with a confused and cluttered landscape adding to the cost burdens rather than driving investment.
“We need a simpler and more coherent approach to climate change with a full review of the current set of tax and regulation measures.”
Gareth Stace, head of climate and environment policy at EEF, said the regulations were a patchwork that had been put together in different stages, without a clear and coherent framework. “We need a strategic review in the next few years,” he said.
The EEF has suggested a new “green and growth stress test” that all new legislation would have to pass before it could come into effect. This test would be designed to ensure regulations are not contradictory or overlapping, and that they produced the desired result â€“ a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions â€“ rather than simply turning into an exercise in box-ticking.
The survey of manufacturers found that 70% had environmental targets that went beyond the requirements of current legislation, and about two-thirds of manufacturers said that managing their energy use was their top priority.
But many said complying with regulations was a problem, in part because of the range of different reporting mechanisms required by the different laws.
For instance, the new requirement for publicly listed companies to report their emissions does not lay down a clear monitoring regime.
Climate change agreements â€“ a measure introduced under the previous Labour government â€“ proved more popular than other policies because they meant that companies could enter into individual commitments to cut their environmental impact, in ways that reflect their circumstances, rather than being forced to comply with a blanket regulation.