We need your help to give nature across the whole UK a real chance to recover and flourish in future. Don’t live in England? Find out how to get involved in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales too.

The four countries that make up the UK are each responsible for their own environmental laws and policies, but nature doesn't respect political borders.

We urgently need our governments to work together to ensure the best possible outcomes for the environment after we leave the EU.

A letter from you now could influence the way UK Ministers Michael Gove and David Lidington approach the future of environmental protection. We need a system that works across borders for all our wildlife. Read on to find out more, and how to take action.

If there are gaps in the law, the environment will suffer

Despite promises to bring all EU law into domestic law, the legislation intended to achieve this still contains glaring gaps in environmental protections. Among what’s missing is the principle that polluters should pay for the damage they cause.

But the biggest gap of all is no means to hold governments to account on their environmental commitments.

 

We need an environmental watchdog to protect nature

A gannet, Morus bassanus, faces the camera head on against a dark background, Saltee Island, Ireland, April

It is not enough to have strong laws to protect the environment if the only place they exist is on paper. We also need the tools to ensure they are enforced on the ground. Currently several EU Institutions, including the European Commission and the European Court of Justice, largely fulfil that role for us, as they do for every EU country.

Once we have left the EU, we will need our own institutions to ensure that our environmental laws are implemented in full, and that governments, public sector bodies and private organisations can be held to account.

If we want a healthy and sustainable future for nature, we need a strong, independent environmental watchdog.

  

We urgently need our governments to collaborate

The good news is that the UK Government has already promised in its 25 Year Environment Plan to consult soon on a new “world-leading” environmental watchdog covering environmental policy in England.

We welcome their intention, but this is not enough. The UK Government must acknowledge that this will be a UK-wide gap, and so will need to be addressed across all four countries, in collaboration with the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

We need a consistent approach to environmental protection and recovery. So we need a watchdog capable of holding all four governments across the UK to account for upholding and advancing our environment laws.

If our governments fail to work together to address this issue, there is a risk we could see an environmental ‘race to the bottom’: a damaging process of each country competitively lowering standards to gain short term economic advantage, forcing each other into a continued downward spiral of low standards that harm our environment and us.

 

Challenge Michael Gove and David Lidington to do things differently

Environment Minister Michael Gove is leading the process to consider a new governance body in England and Cabinet Minister David Lidington is working with colleagues in the nations to consider where collaborative processes are needed. 

You could influence them to change their approach – please write to them. Urge them to work collaboratively with the devolved nations on a solution to these gaps in environmental protection, rather than offering a limited proposal designed only with England in mind.

Here are some other key points you might want to include in your message:

  • We need an environmental watchdog to hold all four governments across the UK to account. Nature isn’t bound by our political borders so cross-border collaboration is essential.
  • Part of the function of this watchdog should be to ensure that key environmental principles continue to:
    • guide how the law is interpreted
    • guide future decision-making, and
    • give a basis for legal challenges when the law is broken.
  • The new watchdog must be established in law and report to the parliaments/assemblies across all four UK nations. This will ensure it has the independence it needs to truly hold governments to account and cannot be disbanded at the will of any future government.
  • Citizens and civil society organisations must have an easily accessible mechanism to raise potential breaches of environmental law in all four UK nations.

You can find their postal addresses on the Parliament website here https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/michael-gove/1571 and https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/david-lidington/15, or contact Michael Gove by email at Secretary.state@defra.gsi.gov.uk (as he does not use his MP address for Ministerial affairs).

Need some inspiration to craft a strong letter? Page 7 of our Guide to Campaigning will help.

Please help us track the impact of this campaign – let us know at campaigns@rspb.org.uk if you've written to Michael Gove and David Lidington, and if you receive any reply.

If we are to restore nature in a generation, we urgently need to see a much more open, transparent, consultative and collaborative approach between the UK and devolved governments in relation to the future of our environment. And we need a much greater focus on securing the best possible environmental outcomes across the four nations.

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