MPs call for evidence on post-Brexit environment strategy
The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has set a September deadline for the new Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (EU) David Davis, and new Minister for the Environment Therese Coffey to reveal how they plan to handle environmental policies during exit negotiations.
A letter from Labour MP and EAC chair Mary Creagh has called on the two ministers to deliver oral evidence at House’s September sitting as to how negotiating a deal to leave the EU will impact environmental policies such as air quality, water pollution and waste management.
“The Committee is particularly concerned and wishes to seek reassurance about the Government’s plans for the large proportion of UK environmental law that originated from EU level, the Government’s approach to ongoing negotiations around EU measures such as the Circular Economy Package and how the Government intends to maintain the benefits of transnational cooperation on environmental issues such as climate change,” Creagh said in the letter.
In the letter, which arrived just weeks after an inquiry on how Brexit would affect UK climate policy was launched, Creagh noted that the EU had implemented a “widespread impact on the environment” with many of the legislative measures covering the environment and climate change established at EU level.
Creagh also alluded to recent ONS figures, which show that the UK's low-carbon and renewables economy was worth £46.2bn and supported nearly 250,000 jobs, as a reason why there are concerns that the Government may “deprioritise the issue”.
The letter claimed that business investors required “stability” and that the Brexit strategy should provide evidence on how the UK plans to tackle its worsening air quality levels and its “poor quality” water sites. A blueprint should also be provided on how the UK plants to improve biodiversity protection, which is likely to be secured through a new €12m MoorLIFE 2020 project.
The letter also calls on the ministers to provide evidence on how any policy changes or amendments would secure the current platform that has allowed the UK to “show global leadership on climate change”. Last month, former Energy Secretary Amber Rudd reassured delegates at the Business and Climate Summit that post-Brexit Britain would not step back from climate leadership.
Commenting on the letter, Friends of the Earth Campaigner Sam Lowe said: “It is essential that the government upholds current EU protections for our nature and wildlife and looks to improve them. With over 70% of our environmental laws coming from Europe, the government must urgently clarify its intent to create UK rules which will fully protect our environment.
“The government must also make sure that existing laws continue to be enforced throughout the negotiation period and that weakened protection for our environment doesn’t become a by-product of Brexit uncertainty.”
The Circular Economy Package – which includes 65% recycling targets, tools to halve food waste by 2030, and measures to promote reparability in the design phase of products – has been one of the biggest areas of uncertainty surrounding the UK’s ability to trade products outside of a Member State status.
Speaking exclusively at edie’s Resource Revolution event earlier this month, chair of the UK's Circular Economy Taskforce Sue Armstrong-Brown said the only way for Britain to open up trading streams with the EU after it leaves the bloc will be to create much more recyclable, repairable and reusable products and services. However, there are concerns that Brexit could lead to the collapse of the UK’s plateauing recycling rates.