Officials in Britain are warning that the country could end up with an ineffective system for enforcing environmental standards after exiting the European Union, or “Brexit.” According to BBC News, a group that includes 74 Members of Parliament (MPs) wants a new Clean Air Act established.
The MPs suggest that promises made by Environment Secretary Michael Gove are not good enough without new legislation. The collective concerns of the assembly have been highlighted in a letter organized by British politician Geraint Davies, the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Air Pollution.
“Mr Gove talks the talk very impressively. But assurances are worth nothing until they are enacted,” Davies told BBC News. “If there’s no deal, then the UK will be on a cliff edge in March. The government failed to meet existing standards, but it will no longer be able to be taken to court. It could easily pass the buck to local councils to transfer responsibility to them for tackling illegal air pollution.”
Concern over air pollution, in particular, was emphasized by Davies as he spoke to BBC News.
“VW were fined heavily in the USA,” said Davies. “But here, Michael Gove is saying it’s better for them to invest the money designing better engines. That doesn’t wash with us.”
Secretary Gove has not yet responded to the letter, but a spokesperson for his office said in a statement: “The government has launched a consultation on our proposals to establish a new, independent, statutory body to hold government to account on environmental standards once we have left the European Union, and on a new policy statement on environmental principles to apply following EU Exit.”
Erik Solheim is the executive director of the UN’s Environment Program. He told the Observer that it is “incredibly important that the UK keeps the environmental standards it has had under the European Union.”
John Sauven is the executive director of Greenpeace UK.
“Michael Gove promised a green Brexit, but as things stand his toothless watchdog would leave us with a weaker enforcement agency than Trump’s America,” Sauven told The Guardian.
“This intervention from the UN environment chief is a sign of growing concern and shows the world is watching. Nobody voted for a dirty Brexit that leaves our beaches, water and air quality worse off.”
By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer