Green groups express concern over post-Brexit air quality goals

Air quality targets and legislation remain at ‘high risk’ of being weakened through Brexit, an alliance of leading environmental organisations has claimed.

Greener UK, a group made up of 13 major environmental organisations including the Green Alliance, WWF, ClientEarth, Campaign for Better Transport and Friends of the Earth, gave the assessment in light of recent green commitments from government and progress made in EU exit negotiations.

The coalition has published the latest update of its ‘Brexit Risk Tracker’, which offers a summary of the potential impact of Brexit on key areas of environmental legislation.

According to the group, latest signals from government suggest that legislation around air quality, chemicals and waste are still at high risk of seeing lower protection post-Brexit.

Greener UK adds that the UK is currently in breach of the EU Ambient Air Quality Directive and its most recent plan in July 2017 was “largely similar” to an earlier draft.

According to the group, accompanying guidance to local authorities has “lacked detail to meet important legal tests” and the organisation has expressed concern that the government’s approach is “an indication of its likely approach to air quality after the UK leaves”.

Aspirations

Shaun Spiers, chair of Greener UK and executive director of Green Alliance, said: “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.

“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.”

The comments come shortly after the launch of the government’s 25-year environment plan, which contained a number of key pledges, particularly in areas such as reducing the use of single-use plastics, alongside a commitment to deliver cleaner air.

Funding

However, Greener UK has suggested that cuts to environmental bodies including the Environment Agency, put these commitments at risk.

Mr Spiers added: “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. There are big questions about whether the government is willing to devote the resources necessary to deliver a green Brexit.

“As the government has said, Brexit presents opportunities to restore and enhance our environment. This will not happen without adequate resources and better co-operation between the UK government and the EU, and within the UK.”

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