RSPB and WWF urge backers to vote to stay in EU to protect UK wildlife
Two of the biggest conservation charities in Britain, the RSPB and WWF, have joined forces with to urge their 1.7 million supporters to protect the UK’s environment by voting to stay in the EU.
In a joint article published on Thursday, the two charities say that “years of uncertainty” would follow a vote to leave. “The safer option for our wildlife and environment is for the UK to remain within the EU,” they say.
Moving the EU referendum debate on to greener terrain, the prime minister backed the charities’ call with a promise to protect the , currently the subject of a “fitness check in Brussels.
“EU membership underpins many crucial environmental protections in the UK, while amplifying our voice in the world on vital issues like cutting global emissions,” Cameron said.
“I will use our seat at the table to ensure the natural environment, biodiversity and a living, working countryside are at the heart of agricultural policy through continued reform of [common agricultural policy], and that the birds and habitats directives are maintained and better implemented, both in the UK and across Europe, to ensure the diversity of our countryside and wildlife.”
The prime minister’s intervention follows behind-the-scenes pressure from high-profile Conservatives that he make a strong statement on the .
Cameron will visit the RSPB’s on Thursday where he is expected to meet with the conservation body’s members and make a short joint statement with its chief executive, Mike Clark.
Turning to the EU’s environmental record may also be a partial response to to turn green directives from Brussels into a referendum issue.
On Monday, the pro-Brexit farms, food and fisheries minister George Eustice called the birds and habitats directives “rigid” and “spirit-crushing” and said they should be scrapped.
“Once you abdicate responsibility for something like the environment to the EU, there is a danger that it infantilises the government machine at all levels and people just sit and wait to be told what to do,” Eustice said. “There is no flexibility. It just becomes about trying to obey the letter of the law from Brussels, and you are often forced to do things the wrong way.”
In their article on Thursday, the and WWF make a counter-argument, saying that because flora and fauna transcend national boundaries, cross-border cooperation and international standards are needed to enable it to thrive.
Clarke said: “The UK’s membership of the EU has benefited nature and the environment in ways that would be hard to replicate . We want a secure future for our most precious wildlife and the places they call home. In weighing up the current evidence, the uncertainties and the balance of risks, we have concluded that the safer option for nature is for the UK to remain a part of the European Union.”
As well as protecting 18% of Europe’s land under the nature directives, EU legislation is credited with a plethora of environmental improvements from curbing acid rain and reducing air pollution, to cutting vehicle emissions and banning growth hormones.
Conservationists say that laws from Brussels have restricted waste dumping in , promoted a and kicked off a continent-wide reduction in carbon emissions.
, the chief executive of WWF in the UK, said: “The outcome of this referendum will have profound implications for our countryside, wildlife, rivers and seas. David Cameron is right to put the environment at the top of the agenda today, and he has highlighted the range of benefits that EU membership has delivered for our species and habitats.”
WWF has begun a campaign and is launching a pro-remain advert.