Michael Gove has claimed that the UK â€˜can do much betterâ€™ outside of the EU in its efforts to tackle air pollution, in his first major speech as Environment Secretary today (21 July).
Addressing an audience at the WWFâ€™s UK office in London, Mr Gove described himself as an environmentalist and claimed that the planet faces â€˜natural disasterâ€™ without efforts to â€˜maintain and enhance the world around us.â€™
He said: â€œIndeed, ultimately, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat and the energy which powers enterprise, are all threatened if we do not practice proper stewardship of the planet.â€
Mr Gove was also highly critical of the EU in its handling of the diesel emissions scandal, in which carmakers were found to have used cheat devices to falsify emissions readings in order to have vehicles approved for road use.
He hinted that the governmentâ€™s Air Quality Plan, which is due to be published before the end of the month, will seek to address these concerns.
The Environment Secretary said: â€œEnvironmental policy must also be insulated from capture by producer interests who put their selfish agenda ahead of the common good. And here the EU has been weak recently. The EUâ€™s handling of diesel emissions, the way in which car manufacturers rigged testing procedures, and the consequent risk to public health which we have to deal with, do not reflect well on the EUâ€™s internal processes.
â€œThe EUâ€™s laboratory-based mechanisms for testing emissions have proven inadequate, and allowed manufacturers to game â€“ or directly cheat â€“ the system. Outside the EU, we can do much better. We will be saying more when our Air Quality Plan is published later this month.â€
Setting out his ambitions for a â€˜Green Brexitâ€™ Mr Gove claimed that leaving the EU presents a â€˜once in a lifetime opportunityâ€™ to reform environmental laws.
He added: â€œWhen we speak as a Government of Global Britain it is not just as a leader in security or an advocate for trade that we should conceive of our global role but also a champion of sustainable development, an advocate for social justice, a leader in environmental science, a setter of gold standards in protecting and growing natural capital, an innovator in clean, green, growth and an upholder of the moral imperative to hand over our planet to the next generation in a better condition than we inherited it. That is my departmentâ€™s driving ambition – it should be central to our national mission.â€