Environmental case for Remain 'should be clearly and forcefully put'

Posted On: 
18th February 2016

Former Conservative MEP Stanley Johnson, father of the Mayor of London, is clear on the environmental benefits of the EU ahead of today's critical Summit: "By being ‘in’ we have improved our beaches, cleaned up the air we breathe, helped to preserve our wildlife and set standards for animal welfare" he writes.

Environmentalists for Europe or E4E was launched earlier this month in Committee Room 3 in the House of Lords. We are honoured to have Bill Oddie, writer, comedian, conservationist, and television presenter, as our Patron. I have no idea what political party, if any, Bill Oddie supports. What I do know is that when he talks, people listen.

They listened last week in the House of Lords. "Frankly, at this point in history” said Oddie, “I would rather that our birds were being overseen by the EU than by Westminster. During the lead-up to the last General Election the welfare of animals and birds barely got a mention. Let’s not let that happen again."

Well, E4E is determined that the environmental case for voting ‘In’, for ‘Remain’ rather than ‘Leave’, should be clearly and forcefully put in the run-up to the Referendum.

I spent twenty years as an MEP and as an official of the European Commission helping to develop the EU’s environmental policy. I firmly believe that Britain's membership of the EU brings benefits to the environment that would be lost if we were to walk away from Europe. By being ‘in’ we have improved our beaches, cleaned up the air we breathe, helped to preserve our nature and wildlife and set standards for animal welfare.

Politicians of all parties attended E4E’s launch. They are well represented on our steering committee which includes Lord Deben, Barry Gardiner MP, Kerry McCarthy MP, Caroline Lucas MP, Baroness Kate Parminter, and Richard Benyon MP.  Baroness Barbara Young and I serve as Co-Chairs. The European Movement - UK, chaired by the irrepressible Laura Sandys, former MP, is providing us with welcome moral and logistical support.

We will also be working closely with the NGO Community. At the E4E launch, for example, Craig Bennett, CEO of Friends of the Earth and a member of our steering committee, promised to hold campaign meetings up and down the country to promote the environmental case for Europe. As Craig Bennett put it: “The UK cannot win the battles of the future - against climate change, air pollution and the destruction of the natural world - on its own. At a time where collective action, alongside our regional and international partners, is needed more than ever, now is not the time to be pulling apart.”

Lord Deben, who chairs the UKs Climate Change Committee, in a magnificent impromptu speech to the gathering, pointed out that through its membership of the EU Britain had been able to play a key role in the agreement on climate change reached in Paris last December.

As Lord Deben pointed out, the Paris outcome still leaves much to be desired. We are a long way off track if the goal of keeping below the 2 degree C target is to be reached, let alone any more ambitious formulations. But it is fanciful to believe that, outside the EU, Britain’s climate diplomacy would have been half as effective.

This is the kind of point E4E hopes will resonate with the voters. We very much hope that Lord Deben will be joining Bill Oddie on the stump.