Sadiq Khan warns Brexit could harm the environment if Government does not act

Britons voted for Brexit not "to make our air more polluted or our environment dirtier" the London Mayor has said.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan
London Mayor Sadiq Khan

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has warned that Brexit could lead to the capital’s pollution getting even worse as he called on the Government to enshrine existing environmental protections in law before we leave the EU.

In an official report about the impact of Brexit on London, the Mayor called on ministers to "guarantee" that environmental regulations, monitoring and enforcement standards will be strengthened in the aftermath of Brexit, rather than weakened.

The Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Andrea Leadsom, recently told Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee that only two-thirds of EU environmental regulations would be directly brought into British law.

Furthermore, there are serious challenges to recreating monitoring and enforcement schemes that are currently run by the EU – and have no equivalent in British law.

In London’s official response to the government’s Brexit White Paper, the Mayor calls on the government to introduce a new Environment Act, to guarantee that environmental regulations and enforcements are at the same or better than the current EU standards.

This would include enshrining key EU safeguarding principles in British law, including the ‘polluter pays’ concept, ‘environmental rights for citizens’ and the ‘precautionary principle’ - so lack of knowledge is not used as an excuse for poor decisions.

Khan said: "I campaigned for Britain to remain in the European Union, but I accept that the British public voted to leave and we now must respect their democratic will. 

"However, the British people did not vote to make our air more polluted or our environment dirtier.

"Our relationship with the EU has been particularly important for London’s environment. Our homes, vehicles and appliances are more energy-efficient, our water is cleaner and better protected, harmful emissions are on a long term decline and we produce less waste. This has all been helped by environmental protections and targets driven by EU directives, regulations and standards.

"I have made it clear that air quality is a key priority for my administration and Londoners need complete assurance of no reduction in regulatory standards and protections in this or other environmental areas. They must be strengthened rather than weakened."

Khan is also asking for a guarantee that recently announced EU policy  – which has yet to be enshrined in UK law – including the recent Winter Package on energy efficiency and renewable energy, will be transposed into British law as part of the Great Repeal Bill.

Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Sam Lowe said: "Continued cooperation and collaboration on the environment with our EU neighbours must also be a priority in the Brexit negotiations. The fact is that climate change and air pollution transcend national borders, so they demand coordinated action at a regional and international level - Brexit won’t change that."

Leah Davis, acting director at Green Alliance and chair of the Greener UK coalition, welcomed the Mayor’s "leadership", saying that the UK needed to not only secure current environmental protections but go further by setting "ambitious new milestones for environmental restoration and high standards for pollution and resource efficiency".

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