A coalition of environmental groups with a combined membership of almost eight million have called on the Prime Minister to use Brexit as a ‘once-in-a-generation’ opportunity to make the UK the greenest country in the world.
The RSPB, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, WWF and The Wildlife Trusts are among the organisations to have joined the ‘Greener UK’ campaign, which was set up to counter a possible ‘bonfire’ of environmental regulations.
145 MPs from the Conservative and Labour parties have signed the Greener UK pledge, which calls for environmental, wildlife and habitat protections to be matched or increased; for leadership on climate action and the ‘creation of a countryside richer in nature’ through support for farmers who deliver environmental benefits.
Dr Mike Clarke, chief executive of the RSPB, said: “Now more than ever, the natural environment is at risk, both at home and overseas.
“The negotiations on our future following the EU referendum must provide the impetus we need to protect and secure our country and our planet for future generations.”
The green coalition looked to bolster their campaign by using the findings of a poll which showed 80 per cent of people backed the idea of maintaining or strengthening current environmental protections.
But Farmers’ Union of Wales President Glyn Roberts said there was a danger a ‘greener Britain’ could export environmental problems to countries with far lower standards or severely undermine the rural economy.
He added: “Just days after the Welsh Farm Business Survey results revealed yet again how low farm incomes are, the focus seems to be on policies which could make matters much worse rather than helping farming families and the rural economy.”
NFU chief environment adviser Diane Mitchell said Brexit was not an opportunity to lower environmental standards, but about doing things in a simpler, more cost-effective way.
“Farmers across the country understand the importance of delivering on environmental performance, as well as food production and productivity”, she added.
“It can be a challenge to balance these things but they should not be seen as competing. What farmers need is help to be able to do both through better regulation, progress in science and research and use of technology.”