Pol­i­tics goes Green for a day

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

THE en­vi­ron­ment dom­i­nated the po­lit­i­cal de­bate on May 30 when the Wildlife Trusts, the RSPB and the Wood­land Trust, among oth­ers, quizzed party rep­re­sen­ta­tives at Bri­tain’s only ‘Green’ hus­tings, or­gan­ised by Greener UK.

As might be ex­pected, Brexit loomed large in the dis­cus­sion. Labour’s Barry Gar­diner, the Lib­eral Democrats’ Baroness Kate Parminter and the Green Party’s Caro­line Rus­sell raised con­cerns that Bri­tain faces a real risk in the com­ing years be­cause the ma­jor­ity of our Green reg­u­la­tions de­rive from the EU. ‘What we des­per­ately need is some clar­ity, be­cause, at the mo­ment, there is re­ally [none] over what is go­ing to hap­pen to these pre­cious en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions,’ cau­tioned Coun­cil­lor Rus­sell.

Dr Thérèse Cof­fey, Par­lia­men­tary Un­der Sec­re­tary of State for en­vi­ron­ment, food and ru­ral af­fairs, coun­tered that the Con­ser­va­tives would trans­pose Euro­pean rules into Bri­tish leg­is­la­tion with the pro­posed Great Re­peal Bill (GRB), thus pro­vid­ing much needed sta­bil­ity, but also cre­at­ing a spring­board from which to over­haul en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions. ‘There will be an op­por­tu­nity for Par­lia­ment to con­sider whether these laws are work­ing as ef­fec­tively as they could.’

How­ever, speak­ing from the au­di­ence, Baroness Bar­bara Young, the Wood­land Trust’s chair­man, ex­pressed alarm that some EU rules may not be ‘dragged and dropped’ into the GRB. Her views res­onated with Mr Gar­diner, who warned: ‘There is a real fear that those bits… will be dealt with in se­condary leg­is­la­tion, [but] if it’s done through se­condary leg­is­la­tion, it can be re­pealed and changed at a whim.’ He called for the in­tro­duc­tion of an EU Rights and Pro­tec­tions Bill to en­sure all en­vi­ron­men­tal safe­guards re­main in place.

That said, the panel agreed that Brexit could also pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity to de­velop more am­bi­tious Green poli­cies. Ac­cord­ing to Coun­cil­lor Rus­sell, the UK could boost air qual­ity by fur­ther re­duc­ing the lim­its of ni­tro­gen diox­ide from the cur­rent, Eu-wide level. Dr Cof­fey iden­ti­fied re­cy­cling as an area that’s ripe for im­prove­ment and sug­gested that, once out­side the EU, Bri­tain could ban the live trans­port of an­i­mals for slaugh­ter.

Other pro­pos­als in­cluded push­ing for world­wide, tar­iff-free trade of en­vi­ron­men­tal goods and ser­vices (put for­ward by Labour) and re­shap­ing agri­cul­tural fund­ing to sup­port the pro­vi­sion of healthy food, wa­ter pro­tec­tion and other pub­lic goods (Lib­eral Democrats).

Panel­lists also traded blows on cli­mate change. Af­ter at­tack­ing the Gov­ern­ment for its ‘dis­grace­ful’ fail­ure to crit­i­cise Don­ald Trump’s stance on the Paris agree­ment, Mr Gar­diner said Labour would cre­ate a roadmap to en­sure that 60% of UK power comes from zero-car­bon sources by 2030. The party would also lo­calise en­ergy sup­plies and ban frack­ing be­cause, he con­tin­ued, if you’re com­mit­ted to reach­ing the Paris tar­gets, ‘you don’t lock your­self into a fos­sil-fuel in­fras­truc­ture—it’s as sim­ple as that’.

Tak­ing this stance a step fur­ther, Coun­cil­lor Rus­sell ad­vo­cated a life­style rev­o­lu­tion that would see in­di­vid­ual car own­er­ship even­tu­ally re­placed by pub­lic trans­port and a strong in­vest­ment in re­new­ables that would ul­ti­mately en­sure ‘en­ergy is free in per­pe­tu­ity’.

By con­trast, Dr Cof­fey talked about re­duc­ing the coun­try’s re­liance on fos­sil fu­els and di­ver­si­fy­ing the en­ergy mix to in­clude nu­clear, shale and so­lar power.

All the par­ties agreed on in­tro­duc­ing mea­sures to boost ef­fi­ciency, im­prove home in­su­la­tion and re­duce en­ergy re­quire­ments, as well as ad­dress­ing the need for bet­ter air qual­ity, health­ier soils, more hedges and more trees.

De­spite this con­sen­sus, some of the cam­paign­ers who at­tended the hus­tings re­main wor­ried about the fu­ture. ‘A lot of the right words were said, but none of the politi­cians on the plat­form seemed to grasp the scale of the task ahead, in­clud­ing what’s needed to re­verse the cat­a­strophic de­clines of species and habi­tats on land and at sea,’ noted Dr Tony Ju­niper, Pres­i­dent of The Wildlife Trusts. ‘Well-thought-out plans are des­per­ately needed and I hope some lead­er­ship will emerge soon.’

The ma­jor­ity of the UK’S Green reg­u­la­tions de­rive from the EU, lead­ing many to won­der what will hap­pen to them af­ter Brexit

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.