The latest Brexit Risk Tracker published by Greener UK has highlighted the inherent environmental risk in the current state of Brexit plans for the UK, with all main areas of environmental policy rated at medium risk or high risk of being less protected after the UK leaves the European Union.
Greener UK, a coalition of 13 major environmental organizations, launched the Brexit Risk Tracker back in June of 2017 to do just as its name suggests — track the risk of Brexit on the environment according to the UK Government’s planning. Since the first Tracker was released, however, things have only gone from bad to worse, as can be seen in the chart below which outlines the 8 categories the Tracker analyzes, and the level of risk based on current policies.
“Michael Gove has been a highly engaged and effective environment secretary and the prime minister has promised to put the environment at the centre of government policy,” explained Shaun Spiers, chair of Greener UK and executive director of Green Alliance. “Yet these green aspirations have not carried over to the government’s narrative on Brexit. There are serious concerns about the level of future co-operation between the UK government and the EU, and the impact this will have on issues such as climate change and air quality. We also fear there is a lack of willpower to ensure high standards across the UK when we lose the common frameworks currently provided by the EU.”
According to Greener UK, air quality, chemicals, and waste are still at high risk of resulting in lower protections post-Brexit. The UK is also in breach of the Ambient Air Quality Directive, which only serves to further concerns that the UK Government is ignoring the country’s air quality levels. Things are similarly unmoving when it comes to waste, with the Waste and Resources Action Programme suffering years of budget cuts.
“In the last fortnight the government has pledged to be a global leader on plastic waste, but has made swingeing cuts to one of the main bodies charged with reducing it,” Spiers continued. “There are big questions about whether the government is willing to devote the resources necessary to deliver a green Brexit.
Greener UK makes it clear that more and better cooperation is needed between the UK and the European Union. Of particular concern is the divisive nature of the discussions between the two parties on Britain’s future in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) which, according to Greener UK, “has quickly escalated into a major political issue, potentially adding to the erosion of trust in the negotiations.” While the UK is potentially considering a domestic emissions trading market which would then be linked to the EU ETS, much like the Swiss model, this could taken several years to implement.
“As the government has said, Brexit presents opportunities to restore and enhance our environment,” concludes Spiers. “This will not happen without adequate resources and better co-operation between the UK government and the EU, and within the UK.”