UK’s green agenda could be ruined by Brexit, warns UN

Posted On: 
20th May 2018

A UN environment expert has warned that Britain’s green agenda could suffer as a result of Brexit.

The Environment Secretary is adamant that environmental protections won't slip after Brexit.
Credit: 
PA Images

Erik Solheim, executive director of the UN’s environment programme, issued the stark warning just days after peers voted to maintain existing protections.

He urged Environment Secretary Michael Gove to ensure his plans for a “green Brexit” - including a brand new regulatory body - are delivered.

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The intervention comes after the UK’s post-Brexit climate protection plans were criticised by environment groups for proposing weaker enforcement measures than currently exist.

Under the current system the Government can be hauled in-front of the European Court of Justice if it breaches environmental standards, but the newly proposed post-Brexit watchdog would not have that power.

Speaking to the Observer, Mr Solheim said that any dilution in the UK’s environmental protections would damage the UK’s reputation.

“Michael Gove promised that would happen - that there would be no reduction of standards of any sort," he explained.

“He even added that any change would be to better standards. There was a strong commitment to that from the Government.

“Some of the opponents of the Government had doubts about such statements, but that is the stated position from the Government and it is a very good one."

He added: “Any dilution and the UK reputation would be damaged. People in government need to make sure that does not happen.

"We need to make sure they have those standards or improve them, or meet the ones under the European Union.”

'GLOBAL LEADERSHIP'

Mr Solheim said strong environmental protection plans were key to the UK maintaining its position as a global leader on the issue.

“These issues are up to the political conversations and for people in the UK mobilised for environmental protections. We want to see a UK, if it is outside the EU, that can go further in that direction,” he said.

And he added: “We need global leadership. Europe and China are the most likely sources for that leadership, so working together on this will be very important.

"The UK has historically had a global perspective as a result of its colonial heritage. The global perspective is stronger in London and Paris than any other capital. So it is very important that the UK continues to be engaged."

'PROTECTIONS WILL NOT BE WEAKENED'

But Mr Gove remained adamant that the system would remain robust after the UK exits the bloc.

“We will not weaken environmental protections when we leave the EU," he insisted.

“A new environmental principles and governance bill will ensure core environmental principles remain central to government policy and decision making.

"This will help us to deliver a green Brexit and the vision set out in our 25-year environment plan.

“But we will only achieve our aims by also creating a strong and objective voice that champions and enforces environmental standards. That’s why our bill will create and independent and statutory watchdog.

"This will hold governments to account for delivering their commitments to the natural world.”