The incoming UK government must put environment and sustainability at the heart of its policy and legislative programme, IEMA members have said.

An online poll of UK environment and sustainability experts, conducted immediately after the general election was called, found overwhelming support for the implementation of a circular economy strategy.

The 669 professionals responding also said action to reduce carbon emissions needs to be accelerated.

Respondents also called on the new administration to prioritise resolving the environmental, health and wellbeing effects linked to air pollution, which is estimated to lead to approximately 40,000 deaths a year. Some 97% said improving air quality should be a priority for the next parliament; 45% of these said it is such a critical matter that it should be considered a cross-departmental priority led by whoever becomes prime minister.

Martin Baxter, IEMA’s chief policy advisor, said that strong environmental and sustainability standards must underpin the new government’s approach: ‘It is essential that the government puts in place a long-term, ambitious policy framework for transitioning the UK to a sustainable economy. As we make plans to leave the EU, high environmental quality standards must be maintained, enhanced and consistently enforced, and used to create the conditions to support exports from UK businesses.

‘The UK’s sustainability experts must be heard, so we look forward to working with the government to protect the UK’s future sustainability reputation and performance.’

Further findings from the survey revealed a high level of support (93%) for EU environmental law to continue to apply in the UK after Brexit, as well as the belief that the government should include environmental protection in future trade deals (96%). Some 96% of respondents backed the implementation of a circular economy strategy in the UK, with more than half believing it should reflect a UK wide understanding and not be constrained by the EU’s preferred approach.

Environment and sustainability professionals overwhelmingly (97%) backed measures by the new government to include sustainability in lifelong learning programmes for UK workers. Two-thirds also said national needs must take priority on major infrastructure development, where there is conflict with local interests.

Some 92% backed alternatives to GDP to measure how well society is performing; 81% backed retaining the UN international development aid target of 0.7% or more of GDP; and 99% called for cross-party support on the long-term sustainability agenda.