Environment sector must be ready for a post-Brexit fight: Deben

6th July 2016

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Ian Fewster

Well-funded, anti-environment politicians will try and take advantage of the referendum result to water down environmental protections, according to the chair of the Committee on Climate Change Lord Deben.

The former environment secretary said that the UK environment movement was in a very serious position following the vote to leave the EU. ‘We shouldn’t kid ourselves that there is a very unpleasant group of politicians whose intentions are malign and whose financial backing is very significant indeed.

‘It isn’t just forgetfulness or unintended consequences, we will be faced with a concerted and very well-funded series of attempts to reduce the protection of the environment and people’s workplace rights, and we are going to have to fight that very hard. We need to recognise the seriousness of the situation we are in. We’re moving into a world in which we’re going to see off some very nasty politicians,’ he said.

However, he did not think the Climate Change Act was under threat, as there was no majority in the House of Commons in favour of repealing it. Targets under the act can only be changed if the underlying basis upon which they were drawn up changes, he noted, adding that chancellor George Osborne had attempted to change the targets for the fourth carbon budget for this reason but had ultimately failed.

He praised energy and climate secretary Amber Rudd for publishing the fifth carbon budget in spite of the chaos caused by the referendum result, which could have given the government an excuse to delay it, he said.

Deben said the referendum result was borne out of a ‘crisis of communication’. No-one would have believed Leave campaign leader Boris Johnson if ordinary politicians communicated better, he argued.

Those in the environment sector should visit their MPs and talk to them about climate change, biodiversity and regulation. ‘In a sense it doesn’t matter which points you make, but every week MPs have got to know that environmentalists are on the march,’ he said.


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