The new PM must ditch deregulation, say green groups

Rishi Sunak must ditch the Retained EU law bill and instead commit to the environmental promises made in the 2019 Cosnervative manifesto, write green groups in a letter to the new prime minister.

The green group coalition, Wildlife & Countryside Link (WCL) and think tank Green Alliance sent a joint letter to the UK leadership candidates on Sunday calling for them to “set aside deregulation”. 

The groups expressed specific concern with the proposed Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) bill (REUL), which would allow the government to revoke and repeal laws carried over from the EU after Brexit.

The draft law affects huge amounts of domestic legislation, but environmental rules are particularly under threat because so many are derived from EU law. Hundreds of regulations covering everything from water quality and protected sites, to chemical contamination and the environmental impact assessment regime, will now expire by the end of December 2023.

In the letter the green groups wrote that REUL, and the proposals within it, are “a serious threat to the future of nature and climate.”

“Rather than create growth and certainty, they would entail years of doubt, delay and lost opportunity,” it continued.

Concerns were also raised in the letter over plans for “investment zones”, which would see reduced planning rules and environmental regulations.

READ MORE: How could investment zones impact environmental protections?

The letter points to the Conservative manifesto, published in 2019, that promised “the most ambitious environmental programme on earth”. They have called on the new prime minister to implement the pledge for environmental ambition, green jobs and a sustainable economy.

It continues: “Set aside misguided plans for deregulation for deregulation’s sake and an old-fashioned fossil fuel, extractive economy. Instead, please focus on implementing bold and popular plans for thriving wildlife, unpolluted air and water, resource efficiency, and regenerative agriculture.”

Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link said: “The previous administration’s proposals for large-scale environmental deregulation, delays to regenerative farming reform, and a rush short-term unsustainable development were tantamount to an attack on nature. Such an out-moded plan was entirely at odds with the Government’s promises and with a credible plan for a sustainable economy.

 “The new administration should aim instead to double down on delivery of its promises for net zero and nature’s recovery by 2030. That means stronger protection for habitats and species, more investment in agroecological farming, and more investment in nature’s recovery.”

Ruth Chambers of the Greener UK coalition said: “The [Retained EU Law] Bill puts at risk hundreds of laws that protect people and the environment, ranging from habitat regulations to water quality standards.

"It also runs counter to the government’s commitments to restore nature and put the environment at the heart of its policy making. Some former EU laws can of course be improved but this should be done as part of a targeted, cost effective and consultative process rather than via this bill’s artificially rushed approach.”

Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Kierra Box also called for new prime minister Sunak to ditch deregulation.

She said: “If Rishi Sunak plans to outlast his predecessor, he must learn from her mistakes, abandon runaway deregulation and the attack on nature and choose the sensible solutions to the cost of living and climate crises.

“That means saying no to more fossil fuels – including a new coal mine in Cumbria – as well as fixing our heat-leaking homes and boosting investment in cheap, clean popular renewables, which will lower bills and harmful emissions.”