Greener UK coalition launches Brexit environmental manifesto

A coalition of green groups including Friends of the Earth (FoE), Greenpeace and WWF has today (22 February) launched a green policy manifesto which outlines the opportunities to maintain and enhance the UK's environment post-Brexit.

The Greener UK group seeks assurances that the Government will secure the benefits of existing environmental laws, ensure the UK continues to co-operate with the European Union (EU) on energy and climate change issues, and pass an ambitious new Environment Act which sets high standards for air pollution, greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions and resource efficiency.

WWF Director of Advocacy Trevor Hutchings said: “The environment must not be side-lined by the Government when we leave the EU. Research shows that following the Brexit vote 83% of people believed that Britain should pass laws providing a higher or similar level of protection for nature than current EU laws. This is about more than just maintaining environmental standards, it is about improving them so that our economic and social wellbeing is enhanced too.  

“We need to act now to cut emissions, restore our forests, preserve our oceans and protect our wildlife.  The UK Government has a once in a generation opportunity to secure our future, so that people and nature thrive –  this opportunity must not be wasted.”

Critical touchstone

The manifesto arrives after a House of Lords report last week stated that introducing and transposing key environmental legislation that enforces political stability once the UK leaves the EU will be “critical” to ensuring investor confidence.

Building on the findings of that paper, the Greener UK manifesto calls for ministers to affirm ongoing investment in clean energy infrastructure, and efficient vehicles, buildings and appliances. New policies that create “thriving” and sustainable farming and fishing industries and contribute to climate change mitigation are also recommended.

The Government hopes to have transposed all EU-derived legislation into law through the Great Repeal Act and the Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom recently confirmed that around two-thirds of EU environmental legislation will be transferred across into UK law in the immediate aftermath of Brexit.

So far, the Greener UK coalition has gained support from 194 MPs and now has a combined membership of 7.9 million. Tony Juniper, leading environmental campaigner and writer, said: “If we are to seize Brexit as an opportunity to improve conditions for people in this UK then signalling a commitment to create a better environment is one critical touchstone. Looking after wildlife and environment is a vital prerequisite in promoting our health, wealth and security.

“A degraded environment is bad for our economy and bad for people and as we embark on the process of leaving the EU we need urgently to put in place the kind of framework and ambition that is fit for purpose.”

‘Cocktail of risks’

Under current Government plans, the UK will only be bound by EU environmental law until negotiations are concluded in March 2019. At this point the Government hopes to have transposed all EU-derived legislation into law through the Great Repeal Act.

The Government’s much-anticipated Brexit White Paper document, released earlier this month, provided assurances that the nation will remain a “leading actor” on climate change and environmental policy post-Brexit.

But Green Party Co-Leader Caroline Lucas, who has warned that Brexit forms a “cocktail of risks” for the UK’s environmental protection, slammed MPs that voted in favour of the paper for failing to recognise the environmental “dangers” of the UK’s impending EU departure.

Lucas was among a group of MPs calling for the creation of a new Environmental Act, subject to legal oversight and accountability mechanisms, to replace and strengthen environmental protections post-Brexit, during a Westminster event in November.

George Ogleby

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie