In her Mansion House speech in March 2017 the prime minister said “As we leave the EU we will uphold environmental standards and go further to protect our shared natural heritage”. But her speech yesterday appears to ignore the government’s commitments to improve and not just maintain standards.
On the face of it the commitment that “there will be no change in the level of environmental protection when we leave the EU” should be reassuring as the government has repeatedly said that standards will not be weakened by Brexit. But no change infers no improvement which, when facing an environmental crisis, seems very wide of the mark. Read more
Legacy is “planting seeds in a garden you never get to see” rapped one of America’s founding fathers on the day of his death, at least according to the musical Hamilton. Thoughts of legacy are likely to start rising up the UK political agenda over the coming weeks as the big question in Westminster becomes who will replace Theresa May? Candidates are already publicly throwing their hats into the ring, with interventions, speeches and candid pictures in kitchens aplenty. Some of these interventions have rightly identified climate and environment issues as vital to the future of the Conservative party. But will Theresa May be remembered for anything other than Brexit? Read more
Today, a pub landlady, a student and a retired police inspector will be amongst those sitting in a church hall in the Lake District, debating the future of climate policy in the UK.
Green Alliance’s second citizens’ jury on climate change comes to Penrith. It is a chance for a community to come together, in the wake of parliament’s national climate emergency declaration, and make decisions on what it wants to see the government do to tackle climate change. Read more
This week I gave evidence to the Liaison Committee, which comprises the chairs of all of parliament’s select committees. It is looking into the effectiveness and influence of the select committee system.
Select committees perform a vital role in holding government to account, scrutinising legislation and providing a forum to explore policy issues in a cross-party setting.
They mainly operate by holding inquiries into specific issues, inviting written submissions and hearing oral evidence from witnesses who are expert or experienced in the issues before the inquiry. Read more
It’s hard to ignore the findings and recommendations of the hard-hitting global assessment of nature led by the UN’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Its stark finding is that nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history and the health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. Read more
A cross-party group of MPs has called for the draft Environment Bill to be strengthened. The Environmental Audit Committee’s report follows its inquiry into the draft Environment Bill published in December. The committee doesn’t pull its punches and demands urgent action to plug gaps in environmental protection. Read more
What a week for the climate. With impeccable timing, just as a temporary Brexit ceasefire took hold, activists from Extinction Rebellion occupied the streets of London. There followed an incredible week-long display of peaceful determination and optimism, in the face of a mounting climate crisis. Throw in an Attenborough documentary and an unseasonably hot Easter weekend, and the climate message is crystal clear. Read more
This is an Inside Track long read.
One of the unexpected outcomes of the past few years’ Brexit upheaval is the environment’s rise up the government agenda. Reasons range from the cultural to the nakedly political: the public gripped by Blue Planet’s devastating images of plastic pollution and a summer of alarming wildfires from Saddleworth to Sweden; Conservative election losses attributed in part to eco-conscious millennials; and a secretary of state whose ambition and shrewdness have married happily with a long latent green sympathy. The EU referendum result prompted environmental NGOs to unite and campaign more effectively under the umbrella of Greener UK; and Brexit has demanded more parliamentary time on environmental concerns, occasions to which MPs and peers are rising with admirable aplomb. Read more
“Manchester is the place where people do things,” said Edward Abbott Parry, judge of Manchester County Court. “Don’t talk about what you are going to do, do it. That is the Manchester habit.” A love of Manchester and its new city region (including towns like Wigan, Oldham and Bolton) was on full display at the second annual Greater Manchester Authority Green Summit earlier this month. I don’t claim Manchester as my home town (I’m a ‘Woolyback’, a non-scouse Merseysider) but I did go to University there, lived there in my early twenties and have a deep love of the city. Read more
This is not a story about Brexit. Outside the febrile corridors of Westminster, the 99.1% of the global population that isn’t British is only occasionally perplexed by the quixotic story of Brexit. Instead, the British story in the world continues to be told by its network of embassies and governmental organisations, like Ordnance Survey, the BBC, the Met Office and the NHS. What may surprise many is to learn that a central part of the UK’s story about its place in the world is its role in addressing climate change. Read more