Environmentalists have accused the government of weakening regulation on the environment as we prepare to leave the EU.
Despite Theresa May’s pledge last year to create a “world-leading, independent, statutory body” to ensure Ministers stick to their climate change commitments, the UK watchdog will hold no power when it comes to climate change post Brexit.
The watchdog should regulate issues such as ensuring water and air quality remain high as well as protecting wildlife habitats.
Matthew Pennycook, Labour’s Brexit Spokesman, said: “Our EU Membership has been key to delivering and enforcing UK emission reductions. In choosing to exclude climate change from the remit of the environmental watchdog, ministers are deliberately weakening the tools we have to hold them to account. The Brexit process cannot be used as a cover to water down the UK’s leadership on climate change.”
Currently, 55 per cent of the UK’s planned carbon reductions are tied to regulations derived from the EU and would have been enforced by the European Union.
Greener UK, which represents the biggest environmental organisations including Greenpeace, the National Trust and Friends of the Earth, have reported their concern over the omission of climate policy from the watchdogs remit.
The government responded by reassuring that climate change is already covered by the 2008 Climate Change Act which created the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). However the CCC only have the power to give advice on the matter.
In July, Greenpeace UK provided a petition with 105,000 signatures to Defra, the Ministry for Environment, to demand that the government keep its promise to create a ‘word-leading watchdog’ after Brexit.
A poll in December 2016 found that 80 per cent of the British public think that the UK should have the same or stronger levels of environmental protection once we leave the EU.
Sir David Attenborough, President Emeritus, The Wildlife Trusts, said: “As we prepare to leave the European Union, I believe there is more urgency than ever to make our environmental laws ambitious and meaningful.”
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