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Brexit “a defining moment for UK environment and sustainability”, says IEMA

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IEMA has commented on the formal notification of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

Speaking on 29 March, Martin Baxter, IEMA’s Chief Policy Advisor said:

“The UK’s decision to trigger Article 50 notification to leave the European Union is monumental, a defining moment of our time. Uncertainty, risk, opportunity – there is the potential to position the UK for long-term sustainable success, mixed with concern that we will enter a long period of decline.

“We must ensure that high environmental and sustainability standards underpin the UK’s future outside the EU – they are core to our long-term prosperity.

“There can be no diminution of our ambition to transition to a sustainable future. We must ensure that Brexit delivers economic and social value in a way that is low-carbon, resource efficient, enhances natural capital and respects human rights.

“European Union treaties, regulations, directives, decisions and communications have played a significant role in setting the legal framework for UK environmental protection. Transposing this body of law through the Great Repeal Bill into the UK’s domestic legal framework will be a significant challenge. Over the long term, this also offers an opportunity to explore more effective ways of achieving positive environmental outcomes.

“We have significant concerns in a number of areas including air quality, renewable energy and chemicals regulation. The UK currently breaches EU air quality standards – Brexit must not be used to downgrade laws that are vital to protecting human health. Instead we must intensify efforts to prevent 40,000 premature deaths in the UK by tackling urban air pollution.

“Core environmental principles – the polluter pays principle, proximity principle and the precautionary principle – are at the heart of the EU treaties and the functioning of the Single Market. These constitutional protections, which have guided policy makers in driving for high standards of environmental protection and enhancement, are at risk. They must continue to guide UK policy makers and legislators and be safeguarded in UK law.

“On leaving the EU, the UK will be free to negotiate bilateral or multi-lateral trade deals. These must not be used to downgrade domestic environmental standards, nor should they be used as a back-door route to substandard imports which undermine our climate-change commitments and broader goal of enhancing the value of natural capital over a generation.

“It is essential that we invest in our education and skills systems to equip the UK’s workforce with modern, forward-looking skills that will be needed for our future economy and to capitalise on opportunities from Brexit. This is key to enhancing the UK’s productivity.

“We will harness the passion, enthusiasm and expertise of IEMA members to inform on the best way forward for environment and sustainability and ensure that the profession plays a full and active role in the months and years ahead.”

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