CIWEM urges next Government to focus on environment, not just Brexit

Climate change, flooding and other urgent environmental challenges will not go away just because the next Government is fixated by Brexit, the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) has said.

CIWEM has called for a progressive agriculture and land management strategy. Image: Morguefile
CIWEM has called for a progressive agriculture and land management strategy. Image: Morguefile

The institute, which published the A Place for SuDS report in association with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) in February in a bid to convince the last Government to improve SuDS policy, has outlined what it calls essential priorities for the next Government, in the run up to the General Election on June 8.

These are:

  • Maintaining environmental protection and standards after Brexit
  • An ambitious and progressive agriculture and land management strategy to replace the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
  • Primary legislation to reform the current water abstraction licensing system.
  • A broader assessment of resilience beyond the 2016 National Flood Resilience Review.
  • A new Environment Act to establish institutional frameworks to deliver measurable environmental improvement on the ground. This should put the Natural Capital Committee (NCC) on a statutory footing.
  • A plan to lay out the actions needed to deliver the fifth carbon budget and beyond.

It warns of the risk that Brexit will become a major diversion for the next Government with professionals fearing a brain drain of the most knowledgeable civil servants towards the mammoth task of obtaining the best deal for Britain.

Chief executive Terry Fuller said: "Brexit is obviously by far the greatest challenge any government will have to manage in modern history. But aside from the Brexit timetable, everyday life goes on and there are pressing domestic environmental issues that need urgent action. Government must ensure that it has the capacity to tackle these too – quite simply it isn’t an either-or situation.

Fuller continued: Unfortunately climate change won’t wait for Brexit to fully play out before potentially biting harder than ever before. We must be prepared so that any Brexit pain isn’t exacerbated by floods, droughts or public health crises. 

"Government will also need to develop new domestic approaches to managing farming and fishing, previously heavily steered by the EU. The next government has a once in a generation opportunity to radically rethink the way we value and use our environment. It must be truly bold to rise to this perfect storm of challenges."

In a draft manifesto leaked last night, the Labour Party pledged to plant a million native trees to promote biodiversity and provide better flood management, if it is voted in as the next Government. 

It also promised to "prioritise a sustainable, long term future for our farming, fishing and food industries" and protect and improve the environment, as well as a Clean Air Act. 

Manifestos for the other political parties are yet to be revealed. 

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