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145 MPs pledge to make the UK the world’s green­est coun­try af­ter Brexit

Thir­teen ma­jor en­vi­ron­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions with a com­bined mem­ber­ship of nearly eight mil­lion have de­scribed Brexit as a “once-in-a-gen­er­a­tion op­por­tu­nity” to make the UK the green­est coun­try in the world. The coali­tion of groups, in­clud­ing the RSPB, WWF, Na­tional Trust, Friends of the Earth and Green­peace, also re­vealed the find­ings of a poll which showed 80 per cent of peo­ple backed the same or stronger en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions as cur­rently ex­ist, many of which are Euro­pean Union reg­u­la­tions. Some 145 MPs, from both sides of Par­lia­ment, have also signed up to the “Greener UK” pledge amid con­cerns that leav­ing the EU will leave to a “bon­fire” of en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions. Ear­lier this week the pro-Brexit Tory MP Ja­cob Rees-Mogg sug­gested the UK could cut such stan­dards “a very long way”. While one of Theresa May’s first acts as Prime Min­is­ter was to scrap the ded­i­cated Cli­mate Change de­part­ment, En­vi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary An­drea Lead­som has pledged that the Govern­ment’s am­bi­tion is for this “to be the first gen­er­a­tion to leave our en­vi­ron­ment bet­ter than we found it since the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion”. As the Greener UK cam­paign was launched, Dr Mike Clarke, the Royal So­ci­ety for the Pro­tec­tion of Birds’ chief ex­ec­u­tive, said: “Now more than ever, the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment is at risk, both at home and over­seas. The Greener UK coali­tion be­lieves we have a once-in-a-gen­er­a­tion op­por­tu­nity to en­sure that we pro­tect and en­hance the UK’s nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment and wildlife, re­duce our foot­print on the global en­vi­ron­ment and build a healthy and pros­per­ous fu­ture for all. 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.” Among the MPs back­ing the cam­paign was Con­ser­va­tive Kit Malt­house, who said Brexit would be “a defin­ing mo­ment for the en­vi­ron­ment”. “The Govern­ment’s am­bi­tion to re­store our nat­u­ral world for the next gen­er­a­tion means we’ll need to value our air, wa­ter and wildlife prop­erly and strengthen our ef­forts to pro­tect them, across po­lit­i­cal di­vides and across the coun­try, from in­ner city to coun­try­side and coast,” he said. “I’m de­lighted to wel­come the Greener UK coali­tion, bring­ing to­gether the sup­port of mil­lions of peo­ple who want us to in­vest in na­ture for the next gen­er­a­tion.” And Sam Hall, a re­searcher at the right-of-cen­tre think tank Bright Blue, said: “Bri­tain needs a green Brexit. As well as en­sur­ing ex­ist­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions re­main in place, the Govern­ment should be am­bi­tious about the op­por­tu­nity to im­prove and en­hance the UK’s en­vi­ron­ment post-Brexit. One area for in­creased am­bi­tion is air pol­lu­tion. Last year, the UK failed to com­ply with the cur­rent lim­its, which are set by the EU, in 40 per cent of lo­cal au­thor­ity ar­eas. These lim­its must be com­plied with, by en­abling all cities to set up low emis­sion zones in pol­lu­tion hotspots. As there is strong med­i­cal ev­i­dence that cur­rent EU lim­its are in­suf­fi­cient to pro­tect pub­lic health, the Govern­ment should also look to strengthen them so the UK can be­come a global leader in clean air.” Ac­cord­ing to some es­ti­mates, some 40,000 peo­ple a year die pre­ma­turely be­cause of air pol­lu­tion, mainly caused by fos­sil fuel emis­sions. Labour MP Lisa Nandy said: “The UK’s en­vi­ron­ment will be hugely af­fected by the up­com­ing EU ne­go­ti­a­tions and the Govern­ment must en­sure it keeps our com­mit­ments to pro­tect our en­vi­ron­ment for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.” The MPs who signed the pledge agreed to do ev­ery­thing in their power: * to es­tab­lish the UK as a world leader on the en­vi­ron­ment by match­ing or ex­ceed­ing cur­rent en­vi­ron­men­tal, wildlife and habi­tat pro­tec­tions * to en­sure that the UK leads on cli­mate ac­tion * to cre­ate a coun­try­side richer in na­ture by sup­port­ing farm­ers and landown­ers to de­liver en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits along­side a thriv­ing farm­ing sec­tor. In the poll, 38 per cent of re­spon­dents be­lieved en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions should be main­tained at the same level af­ter Brexit while 42 per cent said they should be in­creased. How­ever a sig­nif­i­cant mi­nor­ity, 27 per cent, be­lieved na­ture in the UK would be dam­aged fol­low­ing Bri­tain’s exit from the EU. The other groups in the Greener UK coali­tion are: the Cam­paign for Bet­ter Trans­port, Clien­tEarth, Cam­paign to Pro­tect Ru­ral Eng­land, E3G, Green Al­liance, the Wild­fowl and Wet­lands Trust, The Wildlife Trusts and the Wood­land Trust. WWF’s Liv­ing Planet Re­port 2016 found that by 2020 ver­te­brate an­i­mal pop­u­la­tions are ex­pected to have de­clined by 67 per cent since 1970. The State of Na­ture re­port for the UK found 15 per cent of the coun­try’s na­tive species were un­der threat of ex­tinc­tion, and 53 per cent were in de­cline.

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