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ClientEarth Communications

6th January 2017

Wildlife & habitats
Protecting species

A new Environmental Protection Act for the UK?

A Committee of the House of Commons has released a report calling for the government to pass a new Environmental Protection Act, before the UK leaves the EU.

The Committee says that this new Act must ensure the UK has equivalent or better levels of environmental protection once we leave the Union.

ClientEarth’s Director of Programmes, Karla Hill, said:

“Whether in the Great Repeal Bill or in a new Environmental Protection Act, the key is that Parliament is the law maker. The government must guarantee that the UK’s environmental laws will only be made or changed by Parliament.

“This will safeguard against the risk of executive action undermining protections for nature and people’s health. Our environmental laws are too important to be meddled with, without full public and parliamentary process.”

The report, published by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), outlines key recommendations that the government must adopt to fulfil its commitment to “be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than it found it”.

The international, political and financial pressures the government will face during and after the Brexit negotiations, pose a huge threat to UK environmental protections.

The report highlights the risks to the environment if the funding and support currently provided by the EU is not properly replaced.

‘Zombie legislation’

By proposing an Environmental Protection Act, the Committee claims that the UK will avoid “zombie legislation” – that is EU legislation that has been transposed into UK law and is no longer updated as the science evolves. This means that environmental protection may weaken over time.

Other recommendations address the concerns of both farmers and environmentalists. The EAC commented on the forthcoming 25 year plans for both sectors, emphasising that if these plans are to be published separately, they must at least be fully coordinated.

ClientEarth biodiversity lawyer Catherine Weller said:

“It is extremely important that the government’s actions maintain the existing safeguards for the natural environment.

“Where new legislation is needed it must not downgrade any protections currently in place under EU law; indeed, it should be looking to strengthen them”

ClientEarth will continue to monitor environment laws in the UK, to ensure that nature does not suffer as a result of the UK leaving the EU.