This year has got off to a rocky start: wildfires rage in Australia, Meghan and Harry have stepped back from their royal duties, and in two weeks time, we’re formally going to be leaving the EU.
I still find Brexit a terrifying prospect for our country for many reasons. I lose sleep over the fact that we are going to lose vast swathes of environmental protections that are currently enshrined in EU law.
Our current climate policy framework is underpinned by a plethora of EU legislation; 882 acts to be precise. These acts range from directives regarding the conservation of salmon, to far reaching emissions reduction targets.
But as the Government begins to share its intentions to move away from alignment with the EU, and as we head towards this world of dealignment, it feels an increasingly likely prospect that we will shun EU environmental protections and regulations all together.
These next stages of the UK’s negotiations over our relationship with the EU will be pivotal in setting the tone for our relationship with the environment for decades to come. With scientists warning that we have just 10 years to avoid the worst effects of climactic breakdown, we cannot afford to lose any time.
And this world of deregulation that the Government seems on track to meet spells disaster for our environment, and in turn, for the future of our very existence as a species.
Disaster for our air quality, an area in which we are already struggling to meet EU reduction targets. The air we breathe will only continue to grow more polluted without regulation. In my home of Brighton and Hove, over half of our air quality monitoring sites report dangerously high levels of air pollution.
Currently, the EU bans companies from selling dangerous chemicals in the UK. Without these regulations, companies will be free to pack their products with whatever they want.
Our waste reduction targets, too, are set by the EU and without their regulation, we could end up dumping or burning all of our waste rather than recycling it.
Animal welfare standards, currently enshrined in EU law, will be scrapped; allowing animal products to enter this country without knowing the kinds of torture or treatment that the animals have been subject to.
Is this the prosperous Brexit Britain that we were all promised?
There remains no clarity over what the Government’s position on any of these environmental protections is. The Green Party campaigned on the platform that the 2019 election should be the environmental election; so this must be the climate parliament.
The tone of environmental legislation is going to be set for years to come in this parliamentary cycle, and we only have 10 years left to drastically change our systems and the way in which we all live our lives.
But leaving the EU doesn’t have to mean condemning ourselves to environmental armageddon.
Our country still has the chance to be a powerful force for environmental good, we can still set an example for the rest of the world to follow.
Following the failure of COP25 in Madrid to agree any concrete policy, we must ready ourselves for the COP26 negotiations in Glasgow this November. We must lobby the Government harder than ever to commit to decent carbon cutting strategies.
Last week, after months of hard work, I co-launched an all-party ‘intergroup’ on the Green New Deal; in collaboration with some fantastic women from across the political spectrum, we set aside our differences to work together to pump the breaks on the climate crisis.
This intergroup has the opportunity to influence and shape the proposals put forward by the Commission. By working together across parties and borders, we can bring together cutting edge ideas and expertise to deliver a truly Green New Deal that is so desperately needed. This could be the start of the European green revolution that we so desperately need.
Britain still has a pivotal role to play in the international efforts against climate chaos, and I’m going to continue to campaign in the UK for a Green New Deal, because I owe it to my son’s generation.
Future generations will demand answers from people my age and they’ll be asking us: what did you do when we had a chance to mitigate the worst effects of the climate crisis? Our time is now. We need to ensure we are the fittest: the survival of our species, and our beautiful planet in all its wonder and diversity depends on it.
Alexandra Phillips is a Green MEP for the South-East Region of the UK.