The activation of Article 50 has left many unanswered questions about the future state of environmental regulations in the UK, the majority of which have their origins in the European Union. The uncertainty has spurred a cast of unlikely characters across the UK to band together and speak out in support of a sustainable future.
Comedian Alistair McGowan, tennis pro Andy Murray, the Dragon’s Den’s Deborah Meaden and singer Will Young have joined forces with environmental organizations World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Friends of the Earth (FoE) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), as well as top sustainable business experts such as John Elkington and Sir Ian Chesire, to pen a letter that calls on government to deliver on its climate change and environmental commitments and warns against watering down regulations post-Brexit.
The call comes shortly after a leaked document appeared to show that the UK government could scale back some of its international work on climate change and the illegal wildlife trade to clear the way for post-Brexit trade deals. With more than half of the UK’s wildlife in decline and approximately 40,000 deaths each year caused by exposure to outdoor air pollution, weakening environmental legislation now could be disastrous.
“The UK government has demonstrated significant leadership in ratifying the Paris Climate Change Agreement and committing to host another high-level international summit on ending the wildlife trade in London next year, so now is not the time to row back on its commitments,” said Tanya Steele, CEO of WWF.
“Our environment must not be sacrificed during the Brexit negotiations. The UK government must deliver on its promises and leave the environment in a better state for future generations rather than trading away protections for our nature and climate.”
The letter claims the government has been dragging its feet over several important environmental consultations and pieces of legislation, including the Clean Growth Plan for cutting climate change emissions and the 25-Year Environment Plan, both of which have yet to be published. Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to hold a snap general election in June will only serve to increase the delays.
Lord Adair Turner, former chairman of the CBI and WWF ambassador, shares Steele’s sentiments and adds that the transition to a low-carbon economy is crucial for future competitiveness.
“China’s increasingly strong commitment to limit and then reduce its emissions and Germany’s ability to combine stunning export success with rapid growth of renewables demonstrate the absurdity of the claim that building a low-carbon economy threatens competitiveness. In fact, the UK has managed to cut its emissions by a third since 1990 and grown its economy by over two-thirds in the same period,” Turner said.
“UK businesses could save £23 billion a year by turning to more resource efficient measures and renewables technology could create half a million jobs by 2030. Following the Paris Agreement and with the impact of climate change on homes and businesses becoming impossible to ignore, the UK government must embrace a low-carbon future in domestic policy and through international trade deals.”