Crying wolf on enviromental law | WWF
Crying wolf on enviromental law

Posted on 29 April 2004

A new report says that industry has for years overestimated the cost of implementing environmental legislation in order to persuade politicians to weaken or drop proposed environmental law.
Brussels, Belgium - Industry has for years overestimated the cost of implementing environmental legislation in order to persuade politicians to weaken or drop proposed environmental law according to Cry Wolf – a report by the International Chemical Secretariat, sponsored by WWF. 
 
Cry Wolf outlines five case studies: EC Directive on vehicle emissions standards European auto-oil programme; UN/EC protocols on acidifcation; US Clean Air Act; and the Montreal Protocol on ozone layer depleting substances.
 
Each case study shows vastly overestimated costs and impacts predicted by industry during the legislative debate, and demonstrates that final results fall a very long way short of the catastrophic outcomes predicted by industry.
 
A further section of Cry Wolf — the ABC of overestimation — offers nine examples from asbestos to vinyl chloride comparing actual costs of environmental legislation to the estimates. In all but one case the initial estimates were at least double the actual costs.
 
The report finds that regulators also tend to overestimate costs. It concludes "cost estimates from specific interest groups within industry generally overestimates predicted compliance costs and underestimates innovation potential" and that "also regulators tend to overestimate costs to industry, although the overestimates are not as systematic or as large as those presented by industry".
 
The report appeals to politicians not to fall for industry overestimates in the current debate about EU chemical reform: "It is vital that politicians realise that REACH will not be the burden it has been predicted to be" and states "the benefits of REACH far outweigh its implementation costs."
 
Tony Long, Director of WWF European Policy Office, said: "Industry is launching an offensive against environmental legislation with a battle cry of ‘competitiveness’ and initiatives such as the EU chemical reform and the Kyoto Protocol are in the front line."
 
"It is predictable that industry will oppose environmental legislation such as REACH, and use exaggerated claims about negative impacts. What is surprising is that politicians today seem more willing to believe scare stories. It is time to remind politicians that industry has a long track record of crying wolf over environmental law."
 
"The truth is there is no simple choice between green laws and economic competitiveness. Sustainable economic growth in Europe is more likely through higher environmental standards applied uniformly across Europe than through a rolling back of laws on a piecemeal basis."
 
For more information
WWF European Policy Office
Tel: +32 2 743 8806
It is time to remind politicians that industry has a long track record of crying wolf over environmental law.
© WWF / Jean Louis Klein