Expert: Streamline Environmental regulation

Manufacturers’ Association: New government needs to make legislation more efficient.

Gordon Maddan 370 (photo credit: Gabi Ben-Yaakov)
Gordon Maddan 370
(photo credit: Gabi Ben-Yaakov)
In order to ensure that environmental awareness plays a significant and positive role in driving public and private behaviors, governments need to focus on minimizing the total number of regulations and regulators to a stronger few, British expert Gordon Maddan told Israeli environmentalists at the Environment 2050 Conference on Tuesday in Tel Aviv.
Maddan, who works for the Better Regulation Delivery Office at the Business, Innovation and Skills Ministry in the United Kingdom, spoke about the regulatory journey – specifically in relation to the environment – of the UK from the Victorian era into a modernized system, and provided strategies for streamlining regulatory processes and reducing the obstacles posed by them.
Meanwhile, a second British expert spoke about the importance of conducting careful impact analyses prior to moving forward with any new environmental regulation.
Environment 2050 is an annual conference that covers issues of environmental and economic trends and challenges. It was sponsored this year by Tel Aviv University’s Porter School for Environmental Studies, as well as the Yuval Levy & Co. law firm, Benny Moran events company and the government-owned Environmental Services Company for hazardous waste treatment.
“No one country has all the answers,” Maddan said. “It’s like we’re part of a jigsaw and we’re all trying to find the pieces that will make our regulatory system better.”
Maddan began his presentation with a recorded message from British Prime Minister David Cameron, in which the head of state asked that the government bring the number of regulations in general “down and fast,” with the notion that all regulations must go unless there is a good reason for them to continue.
“We need to streamline the regulatory system; we’ve got to make them work more effectively,” Maddan said.
For precisely this purpose, Maddan’s Better Regulation Delivery Office was established in 2007, gradually aiming to decrease the mess presented by having over 60 national regulators involved in policy and delivery, he explained.
Regarding environmental regulation specifically, power over these regulations in England has always been similar to the situation in Israel – authority distributed among so many different ministries and offices, he added.
Currently, in order for an authority to launch a new regulation in the UK, an office must prove that by implementing that regulation, the equivalent costs of two other regulations will be eliminated, Maddan explained. Meanwhile, Maddan said his office is encouraging the business community and regulators to work together on a local level for a more seamless integration of new rules and practices.
Specifically looking at environmental regulation, many people would argue that it does not serve any positive purpose, noted Donald Macrae, a consultant in policy and regulation to the World Bank and a former head of the legal department in the UK’s Environment, Agriculture, Animal Health, Food Supply, Rural Policy and Sustainable Development Ministry (DEFRA).
“It does save lives; it does increase human happiness overall – but it is a very complicated area,” Macrae said.
When implementing environmental regulations, authorities really need to work to garner societal support, often providing incentives for improved behaviors, he explained.
“The nature of environmental regulation tends to be largely about granting permits to do some level of environmental damage,” Macrae said. “The converse of that is you need to have good impact assessment to know what these damages are going to be.”
There are many different ways of applying and enforcing environmental regulation, such as through traditional mandatory legal norms or with environmental taxes, according to Macrae. Other modes include “trading schemes,” in which businesses that have not used up their portion of “dirty air” can sell their surplus, or self-regulation without a setin- stone law.
As far as Israel goes, Macrae said that it might have even better opportunities for honing its environmental standards than does England, as the UK is bound to the regulations set by the European Union.
“You don’t have that constraint,” he said.
“You can decide what level of environmental protection you, as a society and custodians of a country, want to have.”
While international agreements as well as trade opportunities will influence Israel as it continues to shape its environmental regulations according to high standards, the country still retains a large amount of independence as it moves forward, Macrae explained.
It is crucial, however, not just to create the regulation, but also to ensure that it is being properly implemented, he added.
While Israel’s environmental regulations have made significant progress in recent years, there is still much work to be done, noted Tzipi Iser Itsiq, director of the Center for Environmental Protection at Netanya Academic College’s School of Law. According to her, from 1948 to 1988, Israel instituted 10 environmental laws, from 1989 to 2007 also 10 and from 2007 to 2013, eight laws.
“However, the public is not satisfied with the situation,” Iser Itsiq said.
Approximately 62 percent of Israelis in a survey recently conducted by the Center for Environmental Protection felt that the Israeli government involves itself much less in environmental issues than those governments in Western Europe, Iser Itsiq stressed.
Manufacturers are by no means happy with Israeli environmental regulation either.
“How far will regulation deteriorate us?” asked Amir Hayek, CEO of the Israel Manufacturers’ Association. “The new government needs in the beginning of its tenure to engage in reducing regulation.”
In response to Hayek’s complaints, Environmental Protection Ministry director-general Alona Sheffer-Karo accused the manufacturers of “whining” and stressed that the formerly weak ministry has vastly improved in the past four years.
“If the manufacturers are crying about the ministry doing its job, then although there is awkwardness, difficulty and bureaucracy, this proves that the Environmental Protection Ministry is strong and resolute,” Sheffer-Karo said.
Hayek, on the other hand, argued that there is currently “an absurd situation of excess regulation” and a messy result for the manufacturers.
“There is no uniformity among the regulators, each district does what it likes and does not see the situation as it appears to the manufacturers,” Hayek said. “I call upon the new government to deal at its beginning with regulations and find ways to implement them and regulate more efficiently.”