Why green groups have a right to be heard on the EU referendum
In a in Monday’s Telegraph, Eurosceptic MPs and “charity transparency” campaigners have joined forces to fulminate against environmental groups for daring to express their view on the EU referendum.
This move, their argument runs, will “infuriate” the organisations’ supporters and may even be in breach of Charity Commission rules. A Telegraph goes as far as accusing “many charities” of wanting Britain to stay in the EU because they receive money from Brussels.
As it happens, Greenpeace doesn’t receive a penny from the EU, UK, or any other government. And the published today by the charity watchdog stop well short of barring charities from joining the debate about the referendum.
So what is all the fuss about? This intervention bears all the hallmarks of an underhand attempt to silence civil society groups who don’t share the camp’s views. The same politicians who have clamoured to have an in-out referendum now want to decide who has a right to join the debate and who hasn’t. They don’t want to play the ball, so they play the person instead.
People have been hearing about the pros and cons of a stay or leave vote from ministers, business leaders, foreign governments and even the bosses of a . Industry groups are telling us how they think the outcome of the referendum will affect UK businesses.
Why shouldn’t environmental groups be allowed to explain how that same decision will impact our environment and quality of life?
Whatever you think of the , quitting it will have serious repercussions for the future of our environment. Many things we care about have been improved and protected by the EU. We have the EU to thank for higher standards on air and water pollution, waste and recycling, biodiversity conservation, regulation of chemicals, energy conservation and marine protection, to name just a few.
Whether you care about wildlife protection or sewage in our oceans and on our beaches, the EU has played a leading role in making sure that the UK keeps to a high standard of environmental protection.
Challenges like air pollution and climate change don’t stop at borders, nor do the bees, birds, and marine creatures we want to protect. Whether we like it or not, we all have a shared environment in . It applies to the air we breathe and the seas we swim in, and we need to govern them together.
Take bees for example. Across Europe, nearly one in 10 wild bee species are under threat of extinction and many species are in decline in the UK. The EU, in 2013, voted to restrict the use of three pesticides (called neonicotinoids) that are strongly linked to the decline of bees. The UK government .
So if the EU hadn’t stepped in, our bees would be in even more danger. Of course all EU standards aren’t perfect. The EU’s agriculture and fisheries policies have historically been poor for wildlife. But two things are for certain. First, we can only make standards better from the inside and, secondly, if we were not in the EU it is very unlikely UK standards would be any better.
The UK being a player in both setting EU standards and in EU-led international negotiations also means that we, as a powerful group of countries with over 500 million people, can hold each other and multinational corporations to account.
A good example of this is air pollution. Recently a UK ordered our government to do more on air pollution to bring it into line with EU standards. Without that judgment - the direct result of EU legislation - we wouldn’t have had any recourse to challenge our government for breaching these standards. A of the bloc’s air quality regulations concluded that they are saving 80,000 lives per year thanks to the technological advances they have driven.
Cross-border cooperation will be crucial to tackling many of the challenges we face. If we can’t work together as Europeans to stop climate change, what does that say about our chances of working together globally?
As we turn away from the fossil fuel age and look to new and exciting innovations like electric vehicles, clean energy and a new circular economy that eliminates waste, only the EU’s size and scale can set the right framework. The EU is the world’s largest trading bloc. It drives these new opportunities for green investment by passing laws that create standards and a level playing field for all businesses.
We have a far better chance of tackling the environmental challenges we face by working from within the EU than by cutting ourselves off from it.