Traffic light assessment highlights Brexit environmental risks

Marking the first anniversary of the EU referendum, a coalition of major environmental organisations has published a traffic light assessment of environmental risks through the Brexit process.

The Brexit Risk Tracker has been created by Greener UK, a group of 13 environmental organisations, which include Green Alliance, RSPB, National Trust, CPRE and Greenpeace. The new tool has been launched one year on from the UK’s EU referendum vote to reflect the risks to environmental policy throughout the Brexit process. The traffic light rating system analyses the government’s actions and commitments, which policy areas are more secure (green), and which are most at risk (red).

The Great Repeal Bill, which was confirmed in the Queen’s Speech, will be used to carry over the whole body of existing EU environmental law and convert it into domestic law, but fears remain of a 'vacuum' in the oversight and enforcement of environment legislation.

According to Greener UK, the areas in most danger are the chemicals sector and air pollution policy. Waste and resources has been given a less severe amber rating overall, but with the warning that the Great Repeal Bill White Paper fails to give a clear commitment over the general principles in the EU treaties that underpin waste and resources policy. In its commentary of the risks, Greener UK adds that whilst the UK says it has played an active role in the EU’s new Circular Economy Package, the government is wary of increasing recycling targets or changing the definition of recycling, and it is unclear whether it will adopt the new targets post-Brexit.

Amy Mount, Head of the Greener UK unit at Green Alliance, said: “This is a pivotal parliament to determine the sort of country we want to live in as we leave the EU.

“The Conservative manifesto rightly set the bar high with its commitment to leave our environment in a better state and to be a world leader in environmental protection, and the government has also expressed its commitment that the body of EU environmental law will continue to have effect in domestic law.

“We are running this risk tracker to help the government live up to those ambitions, by highlighting the areas of greatest concern and celebrating any progress made.

“As well as the risks we’ve highlighted with this analysis, Brexit brings opportunities, particularly in agriculture, where subsidies could be better focused on public benefits, including nature conservation, flood management and reducing carbon emissions.

“We hope future updates of the tracker will show the red and amber ratings switch to green.”

Greener UK was formed in late 2016 to ensure that the environmental implications of Brexit are not ignored, declaring that leaving the EU is a pivotal moment to restore and enhance the UK’s environment, and that the government must secure the benefits of existing environmental laws as the UK leaves the European Union.

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