European lawmakers lament that the UK, which was once a leading force on climate issues, has fallen behind.
European legislators have expressed their grief over the UK’s choice to diminish environmental regulations post-Brexit, following the Guardian’s report that the country is lagging behind in nearly all policy domains.
A representative from the Green party in the European Parliament expressed disappointment at the results, while a member of the centre-right party stated that the differences were especially detrimental for companies operating on both sides of the English Channel.
Irish Member of the European Parliament, Grace O’Sullivan, who belongs to the Green group, expressed that she was not shocked by the backsliding, considering the numerous promises that the UK government has failed to fulfill since former environment secretary Michael Gove pledged a “green” Brexit. She noted that while the EU may not be perfect in terms of environmental protection, they have made significant progress in updating and enhancing their legislation in recent years.
According to an investigation by The Guardian, the UK has made significant changes to its environmental regulations in various important areas, such as chemicals and climate, since Brexit. The EU, on the other hand, has taken greater steps to prohibit dangerous pesticides and substances, impose a carbon tax on imported goods, oversee battery regulations, and improve air quality.
The two economies are predicted to diverge even more in their environmental goals, as the EU implements fresh regulations on industrial emissions, outdoor air quality, crucial raw materials, water treatment, and recycling of electronic waste.
O’Sullivan emphasized the decline in water quality standards in the UK as a concerning example of divergence. In Ireland, where previous administrations have neglected the environment, EU laws such as this have played a crucial role in compelling the government to take action in safeguarding its citizens from inadequate water treatment methods.
She stated that the citizens of both Britain and Ireland will suffer the consequences of the UK government’s inadequate environmental practices, as evidenced by the recent decline in water quality in Northern Ireland’s Lough Neagh.
The EU has implemented a social climate fund to support those who may struggle to afford the expenses of transitioning to clean energy. This fund will finance practical actions to reduce energy and transportation poverty, as the remaining 27 member states work towards achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Currently, the UK does not have a similar fund in place.
Peter Liese, a member of the European Parliament from Germany and spokesperson for environmental issues for the center-right European People’s party (EPP) group, expressed concern over the UK’s lack of a social climate fund. He believes that while it is important to have ambitious climate policies, there should also be assistance for those who cannot afford to transition on their own.
He stated, “I deeply regret the differences in environmental regulations between the EU and UK.”
The British government has not monitored its departure from environmental policies set by the European Union, leaving companies and environmental organizations to speculate about the extent of the changes. However, after analyzing data from the Institute For European Environmental Policy, The Guardian discovered that the UK is falling behind in nearly all areas of environmental regulation.
Petros Kokkalis, a member of the Greek delegation to the European Parliament representing the Left group, pointed out that while the EU is strengthening air quality regulations, the UK is actually loosening them. This serves as proof that the UK’s departure from the EU is significantly affecting all aspects of daily life. He expressed concern that the UK is not aligning with the same standards and that ultimately, it will be the citizens and their well-being that will suffer the consequences.
Mohammed Chaim, a member of the Dutch parliament representing the centre-left Socialists and Democrats, stated that the recent legislation passed by the EU displays a greater level of ambition compared to the UK. However, he also noted that regulation is not the sole factor in driving the energy transition. Chaim emphasized that industries recognize the importance of going green in order to maintain competitiveness across Europe, including the UK.
Despite this, he stated that the UK has consistently been a leader among European nations in reducing carbon emissions in its industrial sector. “The UK has historically been a front-runner in addressing climate change.”