Did you know there’s a referendum coming up? Of course you do, there isn’t a day when we aren’t fed a supposed “scare story” in the media. Whether its house prices, employment levels or uncontrolled immigration politicians are catfighting over the others figures and ignoring what is the real scare story and the reason I am voting in. What stands to happen to our environment if we leave.
I’m not here to talk scary figures to push you into voting to remain but the campaigners seem to be missing a huge issue in the closing stages of the campaign. Quite honestly the migration crisis pales into obscurity if you can’t maintain a healthy, sustainable environment for people to inhabit.
Once upon a time we were the dirty man of Europe (arguably we still are but more on that later). Then our arrival in the European Union started to put an end to our miserable ways as they brought in the majority of our environmental laws. They put an end to us pumping sewage into our seas, they brought about the habitat and birds directives and they prevent air pollution from becoming too bad.
Air pollution has been in the news a lot recently, with the revelations that air quality is in an appalling state in many areas of the country. EU law binds the UK Government into controlling the amount of pollutants which are linked to health problems, and when it emerged that the UK was persistently failing this they were taken to court over it. After four years of legal action the UK Supreme Court ordered the government to come up with a new plan to meet the pollutant limits as quickly as possible. Thanks to EU law, citizens of the UK were protected from their own governments failings.
That for me is the beauty of the EU. The current UK government is failing on so many levels to be “green”, since the Conservative party took majority rule and were no longer watered down by the Liberal Democrats a year ago they have been destroying the green credentials this country has. We are all aware of how their badger cull is based on lacklustre science, but they have steadily been decimating green initiatives across the board. As subsidies for solar and onshore wind power were slashed the door has been swinging opened the door for fracking under national parks; just last week fracking was given the go-ahead in Yorkshire National Park.
If we leave the EU we stand to lose our final protections, yes many of their laws are written into our own law now but if we leave the EU our government can remove them. The fact that we have not managed to shake our reputation as the dirty man nearly 50 years later is worrying. Jules Howard recently wrote in the Guardian about how he finds faith that although leaving the EU may sacrifice our our environment, it may stop us holding back the rest of Europe. We are constantly voting against improved environmental laws and trying to undermine existing ones, thus our presence in the EU is threatening other countries environmental protections.
Of course the EU referendum is about other things not just the environment and many readers will hold their own feelings about these which may sway their vote. For me the real logic however is that none of the other factors will mean anything if our environment isn’t protected, vital ecosystem services are linked intrinsically to these factors so we must strive to protect them.
I personally don’t trust the current government to maintain our environmental laws without the EU watching them closely. I expect that if we leave the EU they would be torn down in the name of economic progress, with the usual short-sightedness of politicians like George Osborne. So if you believe in protecting the environment I urge you to think carefully about the vote you place on the 23rd June.
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