A Green Revolution – enforce the rules?

For the last 3 years I have become increasingly concerned about the gap between  the zeal in europe for passing new environmental laws to combat environmental problems and the seeming lack of much or any enforcement on the ground. It came to my attention on the WEEE directive, a much needed directive I worked on in the commission, and landed up finding out that you could bypass the rules with seeming impunity. But,  this is not an isolated case.  There is very little on the ground implementation by many companies or governments. NGOs, governments, politicians and the commission must realise that with no recorded inspections in a country means it is likely that there is little compliance on the ground. But, there seems to be a conspiracy of silence. Making sure the laws we have are working is not exciting. Having done it, it is often dull. But, the systematic nitty gritty work makes sure that the rules lead to improved results on the ground and improvements for our environment. It is something that I regret many NGOs run away from, work to get the law passed, and run like hell from making sure it actually it iw working in reality.  Greenpeace is an isolated example of a NGO who gets their hands dirty on making sure the rules are working.

Today,  ENDS reported, see below, a clear and disturbing case of wholesale illegality in spain on electronic waste. Spain is not an isolated case.


When resources are scarce, perhaps is a good time for governments and ngos to shift resources to making sure that the rules we have on the statute books are working on the ground. It would improve our precious environment, restore the rule of law and reward companies and people doing the right thing.


WEEE theft on the rise in Catalonia, say police

ENDS Europe

Monday 22 August 2011

The economic crisis is turning the theft of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) into a “modus vivendi”, according to a specialist environmental police unit (Seprona) based in Girona, north-eastern Spain.

Almost half of the 185 charges brought by the unit up to the end of July related to the theft of waste domestic appliances from official collection points, Seprona reported last week.

Specialised gangs “break into the collection points and take the waste material either to repair and resell it or to break it up”, said regional chief Miguel Pelegrina.

A recent report from Spain’s environmental prosecutor has revealed that massive WEEE fraud is occuring throughout the country. According to Ecolec – the largest WEEE recycling scheme – about 70% of the waste is escaping official channels.


Seprona website (http://www.guardiacivil.es/quesomos/organizacion/operaciones/seprona/)


A simple way to growth

I spent the summer on the Baltic coast reading David Landes,  Wealth and Poverty of Nations.  The book should be read. I was struck by an excellent section on why Britain, rather than other countries, reaped economic growth, lifting millions out of dire, gut wrenching poverty.

His summary, below, provides a simple, yet not simplistic, template that any government could adopt and transform our society and economy for the better. It is a manifesto worth running on.


“Let us begin by deilenating the ideal case; the society theoretically best suited to pursue material progress and general enrichment. Keep in mind that this is not necessarily a “better” or “superior” society (words to be avoided), simply one fitter to produce goods and services.  This ideal growth-and-development society would be one that

1. Knew how to operate, manage, and build the instruments of production and to create, adapt, and master new techniques on the technological frontier.
2. Was able to impart this knowledge and how-how to the young, whether by forman education or apprenticeship training.
3. Choose people for jobs by competence and relative merit; promoted and demoted on the basis of performance.
4. Afforded opportunity to individual or collective enterprise.encouraged initiative, competition, and emulation.
5. Allowed people to enjoy and employ the fruits of their labour and enterprise.
These standards imply corollaries: gender equality (thereby doubling the pool of talent); no incrimination on the basis of irrelevant criteria (race, sex, religion, etc.; also a preference for scientific (means-end) rationality over magic and  supersition  (irrationality).
such a society would also possess the kind of political and social institutions that favour the achievement of these larger goals; that would, for example,
1. Secure rights of private property, the better to encourage saving and investment.
2. Secure rights of personal liberty – secure them against both the abuses of tyranny and private disorder (crime and corruption).
3.  Enforce rights of contract, explicit and implict.
4. Provide stable government, not necessarily democratic, but itself governed by publicly known rules (a government of laws rather than men). If democratic, that is based on periodic elections, the majority wins but does not violate the rights of the losers; while the losers accept their loss and look forward to another turn at the polls.
5. Provide responsive government, one that will hear complaint and make redress.
6. Provide honest government, such that economic actors are not moved to seek advantage and privilege inside or outside the marketplace. In economic jargon; there should be no rents to favour and position.
7. provide moderate, efficient, unready government. The effect should be told hold taxes down, reduce the government’s claim on the social surplus, and avoid privilege”.