A new cross party pro-EU campaign group which launched in Westminster this week (February 3) has praised the impact of “ambitious” European legislation on tackling air pollution.
Officially launched in the House of Lords on Wednesday with the support of a number of prominent politicians, E4E (Environmentalists for Europe) argues that the UK should remain a member of the European Union as solutions to environmental issues require “global solutions”.
Boasting TV wildlife presenter Bill Oddie as its patron, the group also argues that Europe “has one of the most advanced legislative frameworks” on environmental protection and that being an EU member “has meant cleaner air for us to breathe”.
The group therefore aims to ensure that the debate over the UK’s EU membership “will not only be about economics but also on the environmental implications” and will over the coming months highlight the importance of the UK-EU partnership in achieving environmental goals.
According to E4E “pollution released into the air from one country affects the quality of air across our borders” and the EU “has been the leading voice on the international stage in calling for action on a range of conservation topics, and negotiating with the biggest polluters and emitters globally”.
E4E’s steering committee includes patron Mr Oddie, a well as journalist Michael McCarthy and the director of NGO Green Alliance, Matthew Spencer.
Several prominent politicians are also on the E4E committee, such as former UK environment minister and Richard Benyon MP, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, chair of the UK Climate Change Committee Lord Deben and Lib Dem environment spokesperson Baroness Parminter.
Mr Oddie said he was “delighted and honoured to be the Patron of Environmentalists for Europe”, while Ms Lucas MP said “the battle on the EU is bigger than Cameron’s re-negotiations”.
Conservative Party politician Lord Deben emphasised that Europe was about gaining sovereignty in order to face issues such as air pollution, which is best tackled through compromise with European neighbours “which is what politics is about”.
Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary Kerry McCarthy also attended the launch of the campaign group, as did representatives from WWF, Greenpeace, the Wildlife Trust and RSPB.
Another supporter, Friends of the Earth chief executive Craig Bennet, said that that without membership of the EU, the UK risks becoming “the dirty man of Europe once more”.
The official launch of E4E comes during a week in which the Prime Minster revealed the draft deal he has been seeking with other Member States which are designed to modify the UK’s membership of the EU.
Further details of the deal are still to be ironed out, but David Cameron has said the draft represents a “substantial change” in the UK’s relationship with the EU and that he will campaign to stay in Europe ahead of a referendum on the issue, which now looks likely to be held in summer 2016.
The government has said it will hold a referendum over whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union before the end of 2017.
Last month, the environmental lawyer Angus Evers told Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) that exiting the EU could impact on the UK’s partnership with European nations on tackling air pollution (see AirQualityNews.com story).
Concerns about the impact of leaving the EU on environmental regulation in the UK were also highlighted at a conference in London late last year hosted by the Environmental Industries Commission (see AirQualityNews.com story).