The draft bill fails to provide an enforcement body with powers and independence on a par with EU institutions – Jamie Carpenter, ENDS editor The draft bill fails to provide an enforcement body with powers and independence on a par with EU institutions – Jamie Carpenter, ENDS editor

Could the government's claims on environmental standards be seen as fake news?

This month’s cover story is not fake news.

Fact. US president Donald Trump has been rolling back dozens of environmental laws.

Fact. Individual states and NGOs are fighting back, but significant damage is being wrought while legal challenges work their way through the courts.

Fact. Trump’s actions clearly demonstrate the vulnerability of green protections to those who wish to pursue a deregulatory agenda.

The fake news, some observers fear, is being disseminated by UK government ministers, who argue that the UK will remain committed to world-leading environmental standards after Brexit.

Despite these assurances, green campaigners and opposition MPs fear that prime minister Boris Johnson’s revised Brexit deal would allow gaps in protections to open up after the UK leaves the EU.

The new UK-EU deal – which as we went to press had yet to be passed by MPs – contains some key differences to the one struck by Theresa May.

Gone is the legally binding commitment to “non-regression” in the level of environmental protection that had been part of the binned backstop. Binding “level playing field” commitments, meanwhile, have now been replaced by looser, non-binding commitments in the political declaration.

The government maintains that its Environment Bill will introduce legally binding targets “superior” to a non-regression commitment. But not everyone is convinced. Certainly the bill, as currently drafted, fails to provide an enforcement body with powers and independence on a par with EU institutions.

Unless steps are made to tighten the bill, the government will remain open to criticism that its claims on environmental standards are fake news.

jamie.carpenter@haymarket.com

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