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UK Support For EU Nature Laws But Weakens Air Pollution Targets



Today’s declaration by Environment Minster Rory Stewart that the UK Government doesn’t support a renegotiation of crucial EU nature laws, has been welcomed by Friends of the Earth.

Speaking in an important debate about the future of nature protection in Brussels today, Mr Stewart told the EU Environment Council that the UK does not want to renegotiate European nature directives.  The EU laws protect important sites for nature and iconic species across the EU.

This is the first time that the UK’s position has been clearly set out in support of the directives.  The laws are currently under review by the European Commission prompting concerns that they will be weakened.

A final decision on whether EU nature directives will be changed will be made in 2016.  But there was strong agreement in today’s Environment Council that the focus should be on better implementation of the laws and a majority of Member States did not support opening them up to renegotiation.

Welcoming today’s news, Friends of the Earth CEO Craig Bennett said: “It’s great news that UK Environment Minister Rory Stewart has backed crucial European laws that protect our most precious nature sites and iconic species.

“Over half a million people throughout Europe have called for these laws to be maintained and better enforced.

“Protecting nature is fundamental to our wellbeing and that of future generations – weakening laws that protect nature could have a devastating impact.

“But nature is in trouble in the UK and across Europe. We need a firm commitment to enforce these laws and tackle the many threats to our natural world including, intensive farming and climate change.”

Air pollution targets weakened

EU environment ministers have agreed today to weaken new air pollution targets under a new Directive aimed at protecting human health. Air pollution causes over 400,000 early deaths each year in the EU. The weaker targets will mean that tens of thousands fewer lives will be saved.

The UK government in particular has successfully pushed to diminish targets following pressure from the NFU.

Alan Andrews, air pollution lawyer at ClientEarth, said: “Today’s agreement is a betrayal of our right to breathe clean air. Member States have lowered targets and brought in a raft of legal loopholes which will allow them to breach targets with impunity. The UK has failed to show leadership, bowing to industry lobbying rather than standing shoulder to shoulder with progressive countries like Sweden and the Netherlands.

“Tens of thousands of people will die early in Britain and across Europe as a result.”