With the clock ticking down to the end of the UK’s membership of the European Union, the Christian voice is needed more than ever in defense of nature.
Michel Barnier, the EU chief negotiator, has announced that the EU will insist on a non-regression clause on environmental standards in the UK’s exit agreement from the EU. Given that both Theresa May and Michael Gove have previously said that they would not lower the UK’s environmental standards after Brexit, it could sound like there are grounds for easy agreement.
But there is a dangerous gap between the government’s rhetoric and its practice.
The Brexit Bill currently going through Parliament provides no assurance that current EU environmental protections will be continued in UK law after Brexit. The enforcement bodies, including the Environment Agency, are weakened after years of austerity and budget cuts. Recent data shows a decline in the quality of our designated wildlife sites and an increase in river pollution. Above all it is unclear what body will replace the European Commission in holding the UK government to account on its own laws, once the UK is not bound by EU legislation.
FAST CHANGES NEEDED
The Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, has pronounced bold ambitions for the environment. But he is not the whole government and he will not be the Environment Secretary forever. Other government departments are thought to be much less keen on a “Green Brexit” including international Trade and the Treasury—departments with considerable influence. With less than a year before the UK formally leaves the EU, we need some very significant and practical changes. And we need them fast.
Key among them is a new Environment Act that will put the right principles and world-leading targets on nature into UK law. Secondly, we need an independent environmental watchdog, with teeth and adequate resources, to hold future UK governments to account for the law’s implementation.
The next year will be critical for protecting this country’s nature for the future. We must all speak up for actions over words.
You can find out how to contact your MP at https://www.theyworkforyou.com/