The 30 May saw the only hustings on the environment this general election has seen so far. The major parties set out their ambitions on climate change. And there ended up being a bit of tension between Labour MP Barry Gardiner and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Therese Coffey. Gardiner accused Coffey’s party of using Brexit as an excuse for deregulation. And the danger of this strategy is that it could put the UK’s environment at serious risk.
Coffey responded to Gardiner’s accusation by saying that her party was not going to weaken EU regulations on the environment. But it did want to explore “opportunities” to revisit these regulations.
However, the rest of the panel was not convinced that these ‘opportunities’ presented by Brexit were harmless. Gardiner, along with Lib Dem and Green representatives – Kate Parminter and Caroline Russell, respectively – said Brexit was a “threat” to the country’s environment.
Coffey rejected the idea that the Tories don’t care about the environment. She said her party would “leave the environment in a better place than we found it”. She also emphasised the support her party supposedly had from environmental NGOs. Although the party certainly doesn’t have support from Greenpeace or environmental lawyers group ClientEarth.
The Tories also didn’t seem to care about the Toxic Air Scandal, showing that air pollution in the UK was responsible for 40,000 early deaths last year.
Coffey’s political position means she has a duty to represent environmental concerns and interests. But if we take a look at her voting record, she has generally voted against measures to combat climate change and has consistently voted in favour of selling England’s state-owned forests.
The idea that the party is pro-environment also falls flat if we look at the voting records of Theresa May, Energy Secretary Greg Clark, and Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom. The party does not treat climate change or conservation seriously. May has said Jeremy Corbyn “doesn’t understand—or like—our country”. Yet May votes against measures meant to protect people, and for measures that threaten the UK’s ecosystem.
Support for Gardiner’s statements
Gardiner is not alone in voicing concerns about the risks posed by a Tory government post-Brexit. Green MP Caroline Lucas levelled a scathing attack against the Tories in an exclusive piece for Business Insider. She said: “Under a Tory government, Britain will become an offshore pollution haven”. This is in light of documents leaked to Greenpeace which indicate that:
Brexit will be used as a cover for an unprecedented, undemocratic, and economically-illiterate attack on our environmental protections.
Lucas highlighted that the Tory manifesto makes “one paltry mention” of the Toxic Air Scandal. She conceded that Labour fares better when it comes to climate change plans. But still, she criticised the party’s 128-page manifesto for only dedicating two pages to the environment, as well as leaving out mention of what would happen to environmental regulations post-Brexit.
Lucas stressed that the environment can’t be a side issue. It will be disastrous to ignore climate change. If we do, the public health emergency resulting from air pollution will continue. We will also leave the country in a sorry state for future generations.
It appears that the Conservatives’ push for deregulation is all about narrow, short-term gains. There is nothing ‘strong and stable’ about a country where illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide prematurely kill people, flooding devastates homes, and native species vanish at increasing speed. The environment is the foundation of everything else. As Lucas puts it: “We are eroding the ground we’re standing on”.
– Make sure you vote on 8 June. And encourage others to do the same.
– Discuss the key policy issues with family members, colleagues and neighbours. And organise! Join (and participate in the activities of) a union, an activist group, and/or a political party.
– Also read more Canary articles on the 2017 general election.
– Support The Canary if you value the work we do
Featured image via Wikimedia
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?