Today the Greener UK coalition launches it’s manifesto, calling on the UK government to restore and enhance the environment as part of its plans for leaving the European Union. The coalition are united in the belief that now is a pivotal time for the UK to secure a healthy and thriving natural environment for this, and future generations, to enjoy.
Greener UK is a coalition of 13 major conservation charities, including the National Trust, who are working together to ensure that Brexit represents an opportunity to restore and enhance the UK’s environment rather than a risk of degrading it further. Today’s manifesto calls for action on eight areas, and highlights that the key way to restore a healthy and beautiful natural environment is through protecting the UK’s environment and supporting high quality farming and land management.
There’s support within Parliament to ensure a thriving natural world on land and at sea, clean air and water, communities connected to nature, and a sustainable economy. To date, 199 MPs from across the UK’s political parties have signed up to Greener UK’s Pledge for the Environment.
But today’s manifesto comes a week after the House of Lords EU select committee published a report warning that the Government is “worryingly complacent” over how it will enforce environmental regulation after the UK leaves the EU. Fears that were echoed in a report released by Caroline Lucas MP in the same week.
A new, workable system to incentivise and reward farmers for delivering environmental sustainability
The National Trust are particularly focused on the farming strand of work within the Greener UK coalition. Today we gave evidence to the Lords EU Committee as part of their inquiry into agriculture and the environment after Brexit. We’re arguing for five principles to be used in designing policy to replace the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), with the idea of ‘public money for public goods’ at the heart of this – a key area for discussion at this morning’s session. We’ll be publishing a paper on this area shortly but you can read others’ discussions on this here and here.
This is a really important debate to have about future policy, not least for working out what the level of funding should be in a post-CAP system. To make the case for funding, we first need to identify what the funding is aiming to do, and then what the level of need is. We’ve commissioned some research with RSPB and Wildlife Trusts on the natural environment ‘need’ which should start to help.
Once Article 50 is invoked the clock starts ticking until the UK leaves the EU and leaves CAP (though funding levels for farming are guaranteed till 2020). At the moment, it’s difficult to see thinking about the design of future policy settling into any coherence until the UK government decides its approach to trade, and on what current EU functions will be devolved to Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
This is why the role of select committees is important in providing opportunities for this debate, and why we, as conservation charities, are working together in forums like Greener UK to put forward ideas, and create opportunities to test those ideas on the ground.
At the moment, there are glimmers of policy in speeches from Ministers. We’re expecting the forthcoming 25 year plans for the environment and farming to be accompanied by public consultations, which will provide much-needed opportunity for further debate. The risk is that otherwise there will be no consensus around what policy aims to do, and the design of the replacement for CAP will be cobbled together at the last moment. That will suit neither farmers nor the natural environment.
Richard Hebditch, External Affairs Director
Wednesday 22nd February 2017