By Gem Childe on 18th Apr 2017
It comes after recently photographed documents appeared to show that the government was considering scaling back some of its international work on climate change and the illegal wildlife trade to clear the way for post-Brexit trade deals.
The letter, addressed to the prime minister, was signed by 11 organisations including WWF, Greenpeace, RSPB, CAFOD and Friends of the Earth, as well as well-known advocates for the environment including Deborah Meaden and Alistair McGowan.
It warns that the UK and global environment is facing an unprecedented level of danger. The State of Nature Report, produced in 2016 by a number of the NGO signatories to the letter, found that more than half of the UK’s wildlife was in decline, including the hedgehog and water vole.
An estimated 40,000 UK deaths per year are attributable to exposure to outdoor air pollution, and flooding events during the winter of 2013/14 caused £1.3 billion of economic damage. There are also concerns that the government has stalled on pushing forward a range of environmental and climate change policies, including its 25-year environment plan, its plan to cut carbon emissions and consultation on trade in ivory.
On a global scale, an African Elephant is poached every 25 minutes for the illegal wildlife trade and 2016 was the hottest year on record – the third hottest year in a row.
Tanya Steele, CEO of WWF commented: “The UK government has demonstrated significant leadership in ratifying the Paris Climate Change Agreement and committing to host another high-level international summit on ending the illegal wildlife trade in London next year, so now is not the time to row back on its commitments.
“Our environment must not be sacrificed during the Brexit negotiations. The UK government must deliver on its promises and leave the environment in a better state for future generations rather than trading away protections for our nature and climate”
Lord Turner of Ecchinswell, the former chairman of the CBI and WWF ambassador, added: “China’s increasingly strong commitment to limit and then reduce its emissions and Germany’s ability to combine stunning export success with rapid growth of renewables demonstrate the absurdity of the claim that building a low-carbon economy threatens competitiveness. In fact the UK has managed to cut its emissions by a third since 1990 and grown its economy by over two thirds in the same period.
“UK businesses could save £23billion a year by turning to more resource efficient measures, and renewables technology could create half a million jobs by 2030. Following the Paris Agreement, and with the impact of climate change on homes and businesses becoming impossible to ignore, the UK government must embrace a low carbon future both in domestic policy and through international trade deals."