The UK Government is seeking to reassure the public that environmental laws will not be watered down after the country’s planned departure from the European Union.
To do so, it is proposing to introduce legislation to maintain key environmental protections and create a new public body to hold the government to account.
A consultation to develop the Environmental Principles and Governance Bill was launched last week. This will hopefully lead to a set of policies to inform sustainability in areas, such as air quality, water, and protecting endangered species.
It will also lead to the creation of a “world-leading, statutory and independent environmental watchdog” to replace the EU’s own governance structures. Much of the UK’s gains on the environment, such as cleaner beaches and the growth in renewable energy, have been led by laws originating in Brussels.
The UK’s Environment Secretary Michael Gove commented: “As the Prime Minister has made clear, we will not weaken environmental protections when we leave the EU. 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.”
However, the initial plans have been met with scorn by green campaigners who claim the new watchdog would lack any real power. Caroline Lucas, the UK’s only elected Green Party MP, said the proposals were “shamefully weak” and “little more than spin”.
Shaun Spiers, executive director at the non-profit Green Alliance added that “There is no commitment to give the proposed new watchdog power to initiate legal action, nor is there any commitment to enshrine vital environmental principles, such as the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principle, in law.”
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds echoed these sentiments; a spokesperson added that the government’s “green credibility is now hanging by a thread.”
“Vital principles of environmental law such as the 'polluter pays' principle need to be enshrined in law not policy.”
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