MPs make Greener UK pledge to make the UK an environmental ‘world leader’

Over 150 MPs have committed their support to making the UK a ‘world leader on the environment’ after a group of 13 environmental organisations formed a coalition to ensure the ‘important opportunities’ presented by Brexit are taken.

Over 150 MPs have committed their support to making the UK a ‘world leader on the environment’ after a group of 13 environmental organisations formed a coalition to ensure the ‘important opportunities’ presented by Brexit are taken. The organisations, whiThe organisations, which have come together as Greener UK, say that ‘leaving the EU presents significant challenges but offers important opportunities to go further and reverse the decline in the UK’s natural environment’.

As such it is calling on the Prime Minister to commit to using upcoming Brexit negotiations to restore the UK’s environment and make sure that current protections are not lost.

An inquiry by Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) held prior to June’s referendum on EU membership concluded that the EU had been a ‘crucial factor’ in the shaping of the UK’s environmental policy and that were it acting on its own, the UK government would have set standards at a less stringent level than those imposed by the EU.

The EAC’s report also warned that the ‘long and tortuous’ negotiations triggered by Brexit would cause long-term uncertainty for the UK environment.

MPs this week voted to support the government’s plans to begin these talks by the end of March 2017 and the environmental think tank Green Alliance, one of the Greener UK members, says that ‘the government now faces a critical choice on the future of our environment protections’, with around 80 per cent of the UK’s environmental legislation developed with Europe.

Green Alliance says that the coalition has been formed because of this, ‘to make sure it doesn’t open up any gaps in current environmental protections’ and to build on them as new legislation is formed.

MPs take pledge

As of Friday (9 December) afternoon, 157 MPs from across Parliament have signed a pledge accompanying the formation of the Greener UK coalition, which acknowledges that the UK government and the devolved administrations should be working to ensure ‘a thriving natural world on land and at sea, clean air and water, communities connected to nature, and a sustainable economy’.

It also sees them commit to work to:

  • ‘establish the UK as a world leader on the environment by committing to match or exceed current environmental, wildlife and habitat protections;
  • ‘ensure the UK leads on climate change by publishing robust low carbon investment plans and ratifying the Paris Agreement this year; and
  • ‘create a countryside richer in nature by supporting farmers and landowners to deliver environmental benefits alongside a thriving farming sector.’

Commenting on the pledge, Labour MP for Wigan, Lisa Nandy, said: “The UK’s environment will be hugely affected by the upcoming EU negotiations and the government must ensure it keeps our commitments to protect our environment for future generations.

“Now more than ever the quality of the air we breathe, our changing climate, and our natural environment, both at home and overseas, is at risk. Coalitions like Greener UK are vital to ensure that the voice of millions of British people, who value our environment and want to build a sustainable, clean economy, is heard.”

In October, Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom, appearing at a new EAC inquiry into the impact on the UK’s natural environment, said that environmental legislation won’t be ‘watered down’ by Brexit and that the government’s ambition is to be the first generation that “would leave the environment in a better state than we found it”.

However, this week Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg claimed that environmental regulations in imported products could be slashed after it leaves the EU. Speaking at a meeting of the Treasury Select Committee, Rees-Mogg said that regulations that were ‘good enough for India’ would be good enough for the UK.

A ‘once in a generation opportunity’

A recent poll carried out by YouGov suggested that four in every five British adults think the UK should have the same or stronger environmental protection after we leave the EU.

Dr Mike Clarke, Chief Executive of RSPB, said: “Now more than ever, the natural environment is at risk, both at home and overseas. The Greener UK coalition believes we have a once in a generation opportunity to ensure that we protect and enhance the UK’s natural environment and wildlife, reduce our footprint on the global environment and build a healthy and prosperous future for all.  The negotiations on our future following the EU referendum must provide the impetus we need to protect and secure our country and our planet for future generations.”

More information on the Greener UK coalition can be found on the Green Alliance website.

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