EU Referendum: Energy and Environment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:59 pm on 12th July 2016.

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Photo of Mary Creagh Mary Creagh Chair, Environmental Audit Committee 1:59 pm, 12th July 2016

That is the point I was making. When looking at where to put new foreign direct investment, investors will look again and go to the area of least risk. Those risks are reflected in the economy.

We found out from our inquiry that the environment and the UK’s membership of the EU had been a two-way street. It forced us to take action much more quickly on waste and on water, but it also acted as a platform from which we could project our own British values, particularly in relation to climate change. DECC Minister Lord Bourne told the Committee that the UK’s voice was louder in Paris because we were part of a club of 28 countries. I worry about the global agreement reached at Paris and the possible damage to achieving those climate change targets as a result of our withdrawing from the European Union.

In the 1970s the UK was the “dirty man” of Europe. Economically, we were the “sick man” of Europe. Since then we have cleaner beaches, we drive more fuel-efficient cars, we have more fuel-efficient vacuum cleaners, and we can hold the Government to account on air pollution. Environmental problems do not respect borders, and require long-term solutions—much longer than the five-year term of a Government or, in some cases, the two-year term of a Treasury Minister.

EU membership has allowed the UK to be a world leader in tackling environmental problems with our brilliant science base and our pragmatic civil service to provide good nuts-and-bolts solutions to many of the challenges we face, and created British business as a world leader, whether through its retrofitting diesel buses in China or helping the Indian Government with water management for the Ganges delta. These are knowledge and services that our country can export proudly because we have been clean in the European Union. The result of the referendum has caused a great deal of political and economic uncertainty. I hope we will get some reassurances from the Government about the threats that it poses to our common home, and the actions that any new Government will take to ensure that we leave a better future for our children.