Protecting nature during Brexit – key conversation taking place in Cardiff

Eleri Wynne

Wednesday 1 February 2017

Protecting nature during Brexit - key conversation taking place in Cardiff

RSPB Cymru urges the Welsh Government and UK Government to ensure environmental protections and standards are a key priority when the UK leaves the EU.

On 2 February 2017, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Andrea Leadsom MP, will meet with Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths AM, and a range of environmental and agricultural stakeholders[1], to discuss the implications of Brexit on the Welsh countryside and seas.

Following the publication of the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru's White Paper, Securing Wales' Future2, RSPB Cymru is now calling on the Cabinet Secretary Lesley Griffiths AM, to ensure that agreeing to maintain high environmental protections and standards is at the top of the UK Minister's agenda during the forthcoming Brexit negotiations. RSPB Cymru welcomes the White Paper, which recognises that environmental protections and standards are vital to our quality of life2.

RSPB Cymru Director, Katie-jo Luxton, said: "We welcome the commitments within the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru White Paper to, at a minimum, maintain the current standards and environmental protections that are in place. We also support the statement that leaving the EU must not be an excuse to dilute or roll back on these standards of protection for the natural environment which have improved the lives of people in Wales[2].

"We are expecting the Great Repeal Bill4 in the next couple of months and there is currently very little detail available about what will be in the legislation. We urge Andrea Leadsom MP and Lesley Griffiths AM, to ensure environmental legislation and protections, including the EU Nature Directives, will be secured.

"Maintaining high environmental standards and protections must be a priority for both the Welsh and the UK Government and the latter has a key role in negotiating the terms of trade deals - whether with the EU or other states. At this stage, governments are still determining where they might work together to agree any common approachs2. Agriculture and fisheries are areas where mutually agreed common standards across the UK could avoid a race to the bottom. However, it's vital that recovering nature is at the heart of any future policies, and that Ministers support Wales and the rest of the UK in moving to integrated and sustainable management - both on land and at sea - that secure wider benefits for both us and the environment.

"We know from the latest State of Nature 2016: Wales report5 that we are losing our much loved wildlife from our countryside and seas, with one in every 14 species in Wales now at risk of extinction - with 57% of wild plants, 60% of butterflies and 40% of birds in decline4. This is a critical time for nature and consequently it's crucial we maintain and improve the protections we have. Many of these environmental standards and protections originate from EU legislation; if we are to save Welsh nature we must retain and build on these standards, ensuring progressive policies are firmly in place."

1. The RSPB is the UK's largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations. RSPB is one of the stakeholders invited by the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths AM, to attend the meeting with Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Andrea Leadsom MP.

2. The RSPB welcomes the Welsh Government's white paper Securing Wales' Future which recognises the role of maintaining environmental protections and standards is vital to our quality of life (page 29 environmental protections and values):

3. Other quotes of interest from Welsh Gov: "EU policies and legislation have delivered clear improvements to our environment and health and provided welcome protection and support for our farming and fishing industries. As the UK prepares to leave the EU we will be looking at how these important safeguards can be built upon to meet Welsh needs. Our European partners are very important to us. Wales is an outward looking nation, and it is now more important than ever that we work with our partners to forge the best possible outcome for Wales."

"The Environment Act and the Well-being of Future Generations Act are strong foundations on which to build and take forward our commitment to biodiversity. Following the decision to leave the EU, we will not roll back on our existing legislation, nor on our commitment to biodiversity. Our legislation will allow us to promote new, innovative and pioneering long-term approaches to the management of our wildlife."

4. Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis announced on 2 October 2016 that the UK Government plans to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act (ECA). The Act gives direct effect to all EU law and the introduction of a new Bill to repeal it will mean the Act ceases to apply from the day of exit from the EU. At the same time the new Bill will convert existing EU law into domestic law, while allowing Parliament to amend, repeal or improve any law after appropriate scrutiny and debate. This new Bill is now being called the Great Repeal Bill.

5. The State of Nature 2016: Wales report is a partnership between 50 wildlife and research organisations across the UK who have pooled their knowledge and expertise to present an even clearer picture of the status of Wales' wildlife. Over the last 50 years, 57% of vascular plants, 60% of butterflies and 40% of birds have declined in Wales. Since 1970, across the UK 56% of species declined, with 40% showing strong or moderate declines, 31% showed little change and 29% showed strong or moderate increases. Over the last decade, 53% of species declined and 47% increased. These measures were based on quantitative trends for nearly 4,000 terrestrial and freshwater species in the UK. National measures of the Biodiversity Intactness Index (BII) provide us with one way to assess the extent of the loss of nature due to human activities going back centuries. It has been suggested that BII values below 90% indicate that ecosystems may have fallen below the point at which they can reliably meet society's needs. Therefore the value for Wales - 82.8% - gives great cause for concern; of the 218 countries for which BII values have been calculated, Wales is ranked 49th from the bottom. This puts Wales in the lowest fifth/bottom quarter of all the countries analysed.

Tagged with: Country: Wales Topic: About the RSPB