Better, cleaner, greener: Environmentalist groups outline green benefits of EU

Leading green groups including World Wildlife Fund (WWF), RSPB and Friends of the Earth (FotE) have outlined the environmental benefits of the UK remaining in the European Union (EU), stating that "there is no argument to be had" when taking into consideration the positive impact that Britain's membership has had on its nature and environment.

Speaking ahead of Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to a nature reserve today (2 June), Friends of the Earth has warned that by opting out of EU membership on 23 June, EU directives and regulations which have led to Britain benefitting from cleaner beaches, water and air across the country would be at risk.

Friends of the Earth chief executive Craig Bennett welcomed Cameron’s EU intervention, saying: “The evidence is clear: leaving the EU risks undoing the progress we’ve made protecting our nature and environment. Just this week, Defra Minister George Eustice called for the EU laws which provide protection for precious sites such as Snowdonia, Dartmoor and Flamborough Head to be scrapped.

“As a minimum, exit from the EU will result in laws that protect our beaches and nature ceasing to apply. At the more extreme end, we could see a severe weakening of environmental standards across the board. Indeed, this is what lots of leading Brexiteers are promising with glee. When so many of the urgent challenges we face, from climate change to air pollution to destruction of the natural world, require international co-operation, kicking away our seat at the table is incredibly short sighted.

“For an environmentalist such as me – who spent his childhood wading through muck on the Essex shorelines and has witnessed first-hand the tangible, EU led transformation – there really is no argument to be had. We are stronger, better, cleaner and greener in.”

‘Positive impact’

Also throwing their weight behind the remain campaign were wildlife groups WWF and RSBP, who with 1.7m supporters between them, represent the biggest civil society organisations to provide a view on the referendum outside the trade unions movement. The groups stated that the PM’s intervention should encourage the population to put environmental considerations “at the heart” of the referendum debate.

In a joint statement WWF UK chief executive David Nussbaum RSPB chief executive Mike Clarke suggested that leaving the EU would put much of what has been achieved in the environmental sphere in jeopardy.

“The evidence shows that the EU, and the UK’s membership of it, has on balance had a positive impact on the environment in the UK, across Europe and indeed globally – from protecting forests and wildlife and preserving rare species to improving air and water quality, and cutting global emissions.” They said.

“The RSPB and WWF have long argued that robust nature and environmental policies are good for economic growth and jobs. Many businesses have benefited from common standards across the EU, and new markets have been created for greener products.

“Leaving the EU could mean years of uncertainty, during which time we would not know which environmental standards applied in the UK, including the current laws protecting rare birds and habitats.”

Referendum debate

Throughout the ongoing EU referendum debate, a host of energy and environment ministers, green NGOs and sustainable businesses groups have made severe warnings to ‘leave’ campaigners that a potential Brexit vote could result in Britain losing its green credentials.

A recent Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) report stated that UK environmental policy has benefited from multilateral negotiations with other EU Member States, particularly in areas such as water pollution and air quality.

In April, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas exclusively told edie that Brexit is a frightening prospect for Britain’s environment as energy policies would be rolled back, demand for environmental experts would drop and Britain’s voice on international climate change negotiations would be lost if the nation votes to leave the EU.

Nevertheless, there are still a minority of high-profile green figures campaigning to leave the EU. The chairman of Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) claimed that the referendum will have less of an impact on UK clean energy investment than feared, and domestic environmental policy would not suffer at the hands of a ‘Brexit‘.

Brexit: What YOU have to say…

edie readers have been quizzed on their stance on Britain’s EU membership, with the overwhelming majority of sustainability professionals and green groups agreeing that remaining in the EU is crucial for our transition to a low-carbon future.

Cast your own vote and let us know your thoughts about this in the comments section below.

George Ogleby

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