Select Committee on European Communities Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witnesses (Questions 311 - 319)




  311.  First of all, may I say thank you very much for coming along today. I realise you have not put in a direct report on this but obviously this is an area which must concern you in some way or other. Before I start, is there anything you would like to say as an overview?
  (Dr Leinster)  Not really. I can introduce the members here if that would be of assistance. My name is Dr Paul Leinster; I am Director of Environmental Protection at the Environment Agency. On my right is Paul Tempany, who is a policy manager within the waste function at head office. On my left is Bob Barker, who is environmental protection manager from the north east region. Both of them have been personally involved in projects within Russia so that is why they are here. They will be able to give personal insight into the workings.

  312.  Thank you very much indeed. Perhaps we could start, if we may, by just asking you to give us a general picture of the extent to which the Agency has been involved in technology and know-how transfer with the New Independent States. I think we would especially like you to talk about Russia and the Ukraine. Have you any experience of projects funded by the European TACIS programme?
  (Dr Leinster)  To begin with Bob will talk about a project in Tomsk and then Paul about a project in Moscow.
  (Mr Barker)  The project in Tomsk, which is in Siberia, is a project to develop an environment management MSc course for fifth year students at Tomsk University and the environmental regulators in the Ecological Committee. It is a TACIS-Tempus project run jointly by Sheffield University and Utrecht University with connections with Oxford University and ourselves, and a member of the Agency sits on the management team of that project. Really the project is very much about ensuring that there is an appropriate training for the long term regulation of the particular Tomsk Oblast. The project is very much about training for the future regulators of the Tomsk Oblast to ensure there is appropriate environmental regulation. In addition, there is a second project connected to the first one which is funded from the Know-How Fund where we are involved in looking at how improving the environment can also improve the profitability of various industries and a member of the Agency has recently visited Siberia to give a two day seminar on that. There is a series of visits between the regulators and Tomsk University and the Dutch and English universities and the Agency, exchange visits, to ensure that the project is progressing and the course is developed.

  313.  This is exchange at what level?
  (Mr Barker)  Exchange at director of the Ecological Committee in Tomsk level and officer level and university and director and lecturer level, so all the appropriate levels within the projects to ensure that there is both management and on-the-ground implementation, and that people fully understand what is happening and that it is co-ordinated.
  (Mr Tempany)  The project I have led is slightly different. We were invited two years ago by ERM to input into a World Bank project. There are five major World Bank projects on environmental improvement projects in Russia totalling $56 million. The project we were asked to input into was hazardous waste management. As it turned out, it was a broader term than our definition of hazardous waste might be—perhaps industrial waste might be more appropriate. The ERM project is in two parts. Firstly, to come up with a hazardous waste classification system to be used and, secondly, to develop the classification system within an oblast. This is a demonstration project so it could be taken up by the State and used throughout Russia. We provided a team to go over to Moscow to do two days of intensive work shops with managers and directors from both the oblast and from Moscow and then a team of ten Russians came back to the UK and we took them up to the north east region so they could meet regulators and managers in the field, and managers of systems which they were particularly interested in. Also we could then demonstrate to them our practices and how we have solved problems, and the problems we still face.

  314.  Do you feel, in general terms, the Russian situation is vastly different and that the problems you are having to deal with there are significantly different, say, than problems in the European Union?
  (Mr Tempany)  Yes. The size of Russia is absolutely astonishing. We went to Moscow and the people from the oblast flew into meet us which was almost just about halfway. That just gives you a slight indication. The oblast we were dealing with was about ten times the size of the UK with a population of five or ten million but had an area that had been extensively mined; there were lots of problems with abandoned mines, mining waste and smelting residues. I think an area at least the size of the Netherlands concerned with just that problem. We had one example where they asked us about how we would model a pollution incident 100 kilometres downstream of river and that put us somewhere in the North Sea! They were talking about rivers 2,000 kilometres long. The size of their sources is large and the country is very large but in the UK we have a much higher population density and although perhaps the problem might be smaller, the impact on the environment becomes as high and this is important.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

  315.  Were the people you were dealing ignorant of the problems, or did they know as much as you about them?
  (Mr Tempany)  They were very well educated and very well aware of the problems they were dealing with. They were technically competent and very well qualified. They were concerned about the differences in management systems and how to implement and put that knowledge into practice and into practical regulation in the field.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

  316.  I would like to ask exactly what is the Centre for Preparation of Implementation of International Projects on Technical Assistance, and how does it relate to the UK Environmental Know-How Fund?
  (Mr Tempany)  The CPPI is a wholly State sponsored organisation. They report to the Ministry of the Environment. They are responsible for overseeing, certainly, these five major World Bank projects and other environmental inputs but they do not have any direct links to our Know-How Fund as such—or not that we are aware of.

  317.  But could they possibly apply for Know-How funding in the future? Is there an institutional divide or, at the present moment, is it that there is no relationship suitable?
  (Mr Tempany)  That is right. There does not appear to be a relationship at the moment. They may well apply and within the UK will have future contact with the Environment Agency, yes.

Lord Walpole

  318.  Would you say they consider it easier to go for Know-How funding in this country or, perhaps, straight to Germany or America rather than going through Brussels, in other words?
  (Mr Tempany)  I could not really comment on that I am afraid. My project was part of a World Bank funded project but we had Know-How funding for our expenses to take part in that. How easy they found it to access funds, I am not sure.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

  319.  How long did it take them to set up the project?
  (Mr Tempany)  From the first invitation, two years.

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