Category Archives: Political leadership

Brexit will be a pivotal moment for the UK’s environment

GreenerUK_Twitter_1.jpgYesterday MPs voted to support the government’s plan to start formal Brexit talks by the end of March next year. As the UK edges closer to leaving the European Union, the government now faces a critical choice on the future of our environment protections.

An estimated 80 per cent of the UK’s environmental legislation was developed with Europe, so the UK’s vote to leave the EU inevitably places a question mark over nearly all of our environmental protections. From policies that ensure our air and water are clean and protect our special wildlife, to those that keep us safe from exposure to toxic chemicals at work, a place will be needed for these protections in the UK’s future policy framework outside the EU.

We are, therefore, at a pivotal moment. If we get it wrong, we could see by far the biggest setback yet for the future well-being of our environment and all of us that benefit from it. But if we get it right, we can avoid that, improve on the current protections and begin to restore and even enhance our natural world.

Making sure we get it right
The public want the government to get it right. A recent YouGov poll has revealed that four in every five British adults think we should have the same or stronger environmental protection after we leave the EU.

That’s why we have come together with 12 of the UK’s other major environmental organisations, in a collaboration the UK has never seen before. The new coalition, Greener UK, which includes organisations with a combined membership of 7.9 million, will be watching the Great Repeal Bill very closely to make sure it doesn’t open up any gaps in current environmental protections and, as new legislation is formed, we will be looking for ways to build on them.

This year’s State of Nature report revealed the insidious and alarming loss of biodiversity in this country: 15 per cent of our native species are under threat of extinction, and 53 per cent are in decline. And 2016, for all its other surprises, has also been the year to break climate records and pass a tipping point for atmospheric carbon. So this is a window of opportunity we cannot miss.

We’re not alone in this belief: 145 MPs from across the political spectrum and across the UK have so far signed Greener UK’s Pledge for the Environment, committing to support the UK in becoming a world leader on the environment.

Outside of the Brexit debate, this government has shown some early signs of leadership in this area: ratifying the Paris climate agreement and making global commitments on marine protection. But although there have been some welcome warm words from Brexit minister Robin Walker about putting Britain “at the vanguard of tackling global environmental challenges”, the government is yet to say what leaving the EU will mean for this. On the other hand, Secretary of State David Davis has promised “firmly and unequivocally” that employment rights will not be eroded during Brexit. We urgently need an equivalent, explicit reassurance for the environment.

The need for strong government commitment
Now is the time for the prime minister to respond to what four in every five people and 145 MPs are saying and state her commitment to maintaining the UK’s environmental protections. The newly promised Brexit plan is the ideal opportunity to do this.

And, while we should continue to collaborate with our European neighbours where there’s a clear mutual interest and environmental benefit, we should also establish world class environmental governance here in the UK. Those looking back at the end of this century will judge our leaders now by how they chose to respond at this crucial turning point.

More MPs are signing the Pledge for the Environment every day. If you can’t see your MP on the list you can still ask them to sign. For more information go to The Climate Coalition

If you are an MP, and are interested in signing, please email:

Dispatch from Marrakech: determination to succeed, despite shadows on the horizon

marrakech72The UN climate talks in Marrakech (known as COP22) have been buzzing for the past week, but there seems to be a determination that the shock US election victory of Donald Trump should not derail the Paris climate agreement.

Walking past the huge US pavilion in the climate village it is difficult to imagine that, next year, the US will not be participating. Read more

Why the Treasury should go for low carbon infrastructure, regardless of climate change

9167178823_5ab2056b2a_kThis post first appeared as a Huffington Post Blog.

It was George Osborne who, festooned with hard hat and high vis, proclaimed that ‘we are the builders.’ He looked a bit silly, but his message was serious. Building things is what real people do; it’s where real economic growth happens; and it’s a real investment in our shared future. Osborne invented the line, but it is Theresa May who is doing the building. As the BBC’s business editor put it, “from beating ourselves up for not being able to build anything, the UK is suddenly building everything.” Well, almost everything. Read more

California dreaming? Environmental lessons for Brexit Britain from the ‘left coast’

Bixby Creek Bridge on Highway #1 at the US West Coast traveling south to Los AngelesJohn Steinbeck described the California I grew up in as ‘a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.’ The golden state has always loomed large in the imagination but, in my early years, much of the stink and quality of light was literal: my dad, a Los Angeles native, used to joke that he didn’t trust air he couldn’t see. That’s how bad the air pollution was.

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100 days of May: how have green issues fared with the new PM ?

30307280212_3e859da54f_z2016 has proven to be one of the most politically tumultuous years in recent memory, with a history-making referendum, a change of government, leadership elections in several of the opposition parties and Ed Balls dazzling the nation on live Saturday night TV. As such, last Friday should have been Theresa May’s 40th day as prime minster but, thanks to the unexpected termination of the Conservative leadership contest in July, saw her celebrate her 100th day in office. Read more

A green ‘people’s home’? Reflections on climate politics in Sweden

28937424213_1e0d89d2f8_zThis post is by Green Alliance associate Rebecca Willis. It was first posted on her blog.

When the going gets tough in UK politics, it’s tempting to look to Scandinavia for inspiration. Those ex-Vikings seem to have mellowed into a peaceful, consensual bunch, quietly doing the right thing on social policy and environmental protection. Or so we believe. But what’s the truth behind the stereotype? I recently spent a month in Sweden, and while I’m still no expert, I had a lot of interesting conversations about Swedish politics – so here are my reflections.

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Conference diary: a bird’s eye view from Birmingham

birminghamI used to work for a conservation charity famous for protecting birds and once, on a call, a woman used the phrase “let’s kill two birds with one stone, here”. I barely noticed what she’d said (it was water off a duck’s back to me) but the caller got so embarrassed that she garbled an apology and then hung up, mid-call. Phrases, and their use, can be quite important to some people, which was a running theme at the Conservative party conference this week. Read more

The ‘great repeal bill’, the environment and the washing machine

washing mashines in appliance store

The government’s ‘great repeal bill’ will transpose all current EU law into domestic British law upon the UK’s exit from the EU. Theresa May has promised that the UK will “no longer [be] part of a political union with supranational institutions that can override national parliaments and courts.” The plan is to ‘cut and paste’ current EU rules into UK domestic law.

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