The United Kingdom will be “undoubtedly” better able to tackle climate change if it remains in the EU, leading environmentalists urged during a debate last night.
They were speaking at a talk on the EU’s influence on UK environment, organised by environmental charity Friends of the Earth (FoE) and ‘Remain’ campaigners Environmentalists for Europe.
Stanley Johnson, Co-chair of Environmentalists for Europe & former Conservative MEP (and father to pro-Brexit Boris Johnson) said Brexit poses a threat to environmental law in the UK.
“A whole lot of legislation will come unpicked,” he said.
“Either because it hasn’t been properly translated into British law, or if it has then because there are supranational aspects to it like… reporting to the European Commission.
“Or other things will fall by the wayside and there won’t be the political will in Britain to reintroduce them.”
Johnson was joined on the panel by Caroline Flint, Labour Party MP and former shadow energy secretary, Caroline Lucas, the Green party’s only MP, Craig Bennett, FoE CEO, Tony Junpier, Bennett’s predecessor, and Laura Sandys, Chair of European Movement UK and former Conservative MP.
The panel was particularly concerned about the future of the embattled Climate Change Act, with Flint warning it may “come under further assault.”
Going one step further, Johnson told DeSmog UK after the event that the threat of the Climate Change Act being repealed “could not be ruled out”.
Exploiting the Environment
Flint also pointed out that “no one makes the environmental case” for Brexit.
Her comments come off the back of an Environmental Audit Committee inquiry published this week which said: “None of the witnesses to our inquiry, even those who made criticisms, made an environmental case for leaving the European Union.”
The committee, of which Lucas is a member, continued: “The UK’s membership of the EU has ensured environmental action was taken on a faster timetable and more thoroughly than would otherwise have been the case.”
Asked why climate change deniers were campaigning to leave the EU, Johnson said “it all boils down to money”.
“The way they see climate change being implemented is regulating their God-given right to make as much money as they possibly can by exploiting the environment.
“There are Brexiteers out there who don’t want to see regulation. They don’t want to see laws on the environment.”
Britain would have much less clout on international climate change policy if it left the EU, the panel agreed.
Flint said Britain is “undoubtedly” more likely to tackle climate change if it remains in the EU.
“Between 28 of us we are able to make more of an impact. Not only in influencing member states, but also when it comes to those big global discussions as well.”
“When it comes to protecting the environment, borders become irrelevant.”
Lucas agreed with Flint’s claim. She argued that that although the outcome of the Paris COP21 talks last year was not as good as she would have liked, “many countries said they think the EU has played an instrumental role in going as far as they did.”
Tony Juniper added that the common market has been instrumental in creating shared environmental objectives.
“We were there round the table, trying to create the level playing field that is a proper single market – so that we don’t have one country wrecking the environment whilst the other is trying to do something to improve it.”
Photo taken by Victoria Seabrook