Brexit is a ”challenge to decades of progress” on environment, say green groups

Stuart Rodger

Two leading green groups express their fears for vital UK and Scottish environmental protections in wake of Brexit vote 

A NUMBER of leading environmental groups have expressed their fears over the consequences of Britain’s vote to leave the EU, with one director claiming they are “extremely concerned” about the implications for Britain’s environmental regulations.

The intervention comes amid the ongoing fallout from the Brexit vote last month, with one senior campaigner describing it as a potential “catastrophe” for Britain’s environment, given the strong regulatory role that the EU performs. 

Friends of the Earth Scotland director Richard Dixon said: “The vote to leave the EU is a huge challenge to decades of progress on improving the environment and tackling climate change. Many of the politicians backing the leave vote are climate sceptics and against renewable energy, and much of the ‘red tape’ they complain about are the laws that have given us cleaner air and water, and forced companies to reduce pollution.”

“Much of the ‘red tape’ they complain about are the laws that have given us cleaner air.” Richard Dixon

He added: “The current UK Government has been desperately unenthusiastic about renewable energy, holding back offshore wind and solar developments in Scotland. EU targets helped to push them a bit but any new UK Government is likely to be even more of a blockage to unlocking Scotland’s huge renewable energy potential.”

The green pressure group had previously backed a Remain vote, citing the EU’s green regulations and directives. In a report published before the referendum, FoE Scotland argued that EU legislation had resulted in lower levels of sulphur dioxide, fewer beaches polluted by sewage, and dangerous chemicals removed from everyday products, such as lead from paint.

Echoing FoE Scotland’s concerns were Client Earth – self-described as ‘activist lawyers committed to securing a healthy planet’ – which says that it “regularly use EU laws to challenge governments across Europe on a wide range of issues, including air quality, nature, wildlife, toxics and transparency”.

“EU targets helped to push them a bit but any new UK Government is likely to be even more of a blockage.” Richard Dixon

The organisation has had a series of successful legal victories in the past in which it utilised EU law to pressure the British Government. Just last year, Client Earth won its Supreme Court case against DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs), which ordered it to bring forward its deadline on reducing levels of Nitrogen Dioxide.

The group stated that “Vital birds and habitats directives, bathing water and waste water regulations could also be scrapped or weakened”. Client Earth’s director, James Thornton, said: “We will use the months and years ahead to urge the UK Government to live up to the EU laws which are currently on the statute books. Anything which weakens those laws would be a catastrophe for Britain’s environment.”

The statements follow observations from environmental journalists that a significant number of prominent climate change ‘deniers’ were backers of Leave, among them former Chancellor Lord Lawson, Matt Ridley, James Delingpole.

Picture courtesy of Arbre Revolution / Flickr 

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