With the EU Referendum quickly approaching, debates on whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union are sparking up across the country. In a recent report, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) have argued that being a member of the EU has benefited environment protection in the United Kingdom.
According to the committee, efforts to reduce pollution and boost biodiversity within the UK have been propelled by the EU membership. “The UK’s membership of the EU has ensured environmental action was taken on a faster timetable and more thoroughly than would otherwise would have been case,” the report said.
— Mary Creagh (@MaryCreaghMP) April 19, 2016
The Environmental Audit Committee also went on the explain that leaving the EU would threaten the UK’s air and water quality, biodiversity and the countryside as it would ‘lead to a damaging policy vacuum and an end to influence over green regulations’, reports the Guardian.
“The UK has cleaned up its act: EU laws mean we bathe on cleaner beaches, drive more fuel-efficient cars and can hold the government to account on air pollution. The overwhelming evidence is that EU membership has improved the UK’s approach to the environment and ensured that the UK’s environment has been better protected,” said Mary Creagh, chair of the committee.
The committee’s report also argues that the EU membership has given the UK a platform influence global policy. “In the last European parliament, all countries agreed to follow the carbon reduction trajectory set by the UK for the next 15 years,” they wrote in a letter to the Guardian.
However, as with any political issue, a debate surrounding both national and international environmental issues has been sparked. Vote Leave MPs have argued that an independent United Kingdom will have more freedom to enact their own environmental policies that are specially targeted to the UK’s complex natural environment and will have more influence during global conventions.
George Eustice, the Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and member of the Vote Leave campaign, said:“Our natural environment is rich in diversity, but is also complex. Imposing centralised policies through clunky EU directives has failed because these act as a straitjacket that stifles innovation in environmental management.
“The UK has also lost its voice and voting rights on many international wildlife conventions. If we vote [to] leave and take control, we will regain our seat at the table at these conventions. We would be able to innovate, to pilot ideas and to really deliver for our natural environment.”
The report then points out that there are no environmental demands in David Cameron’s recent re-negotiation of the UK’s membership terms, stating that the UK is “broadly satisfied” with EU Environmental policy.
“Environmental problems don’t respect borders,” she added. “When it comes to protecting our natural environment and dealing with global problems like climate change, the overwhelming evidence is that EU membership has improved the UK’s approach to the environment and ensured that the UK’s environment has been better protected,” said Ms Creagh.
— Env Audit Committee (@CommonsEAC) April 19, 2016
The report, which had reviewed both written and interview evidence provided by members of government and industry, concluded that there was no “environmental case for leaving the European Union.”
In response to the report’s conclusion, former minister Peter Lilley accused the report of being “mutually contradictory” and highlighted that many of members who provided evidence receive EU funding. Lilley also claims that the UK has been deprived of direct representation on ICCAT, an inter-governmental fishery organization responsible for the conservation of tunas and tuna-like species, due to the EU membership. In addition, the UK’s membership also risked the country vote on CITES, the body set up to protect wild animals and plants from commercial exploitation.
“If the EU has been making Britain more environmentally friendly, it is hard to argue that Britain has been making the EU take the lead in the environmentalism globally,” he said. “We are either leader of follower, not both.”
The committee, which took evidence from academics, wildlife and other conservation bodies, farmers’ groups and energy and transport companies as well as ministers and officials from the European Commission, hopes the report will “inform debate” on both national and international environmental issues ahead of the EU referendum on June 23.
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