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WWF - EU Vote: The UK’s Leading Conservation bodies call on ‘In’ and ‘Out’ camps to say what they will do for the environment

Speakers across political spectrum debate implications of changed relationship with EU

WWF, RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts are asking campaigners on both sides of the EU referendum debate what they’d do to protect our natural world and the vital services it provides, should their side be successful.

WWF, RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts recommend that the public ask ‘In’ and ‘Out’ campaigners key questions including:

  1. How would you make sure that action on nature protection, pollution and air quality is maintained and enhanced? 
  2. How would you exercise international leadership on climate change? 
  3. What is your vision for more environmentally responsible agriculture and fishing in the UK? 

A cross-party debate taking place features speakers including Caroline Spelman MP, Caroline Lucus MP, Angela Smith MP, Lord Callanan and Edmund Marriage.

WWF-UK’s Director of Advocacy Trevor Hutchings said:

“As we debate the UK’s future relationship with the EU, it is important that both camps – IN and OUT - consider the impact on the environment.   In particular we want to hear how they would set about reversing the decline in species and habitats upon which our economic and social wellbeing depend. 

“Not everything that comes from Europe has been good for the natural world, but on balance membership of the EU has delivered benefits for our environment that would be hard to replicate in the event of the UK leaving. Whatever the UK’s future relationship with the EU it must not be at the expense of our natural resources, wildlife and wild places.”  

The call comes as a new analysis prepared by the independent Institute for European Environmental Policy, illustrates how EU measures have safeguarded birds such as the bittern, nightjar and Dartford warbler, protected habitats that are essential for butterflies and bees and have delivered cleaner air, rivers and beaches.

The report is also clear that there should be changes and improvements.  The Common Agricultural Policy has driven an intensification of agricultural systems across the EU, which has directly driven wildlife declines.  Conservation groups have been campaigning for many years for reforms of the CAP so that it prioritises the protection and enhancement of public goods (such as wildlife), and not just intensification of production.  

RSPB’s Director of Conservation Martin Harper said:

“Given that nature knows no boundaries and over a century our primary interest has been birds (many of which migrate), the RSPB has always believed we need to act internationally especially as the threats are often diffuse.  Comprehensive international agreements for nature conservation and the environment – together with a robust and enforceable governance framework – are therefore essential.
“It is now time for both sides of the referendum debate to present their respective visions for the future and to explain how their stance will help protect and enhance the environment.  The millions of people that care about nature in this country deserve greater clarity about the environmental implications of the UK remaining in or leaving the EU which is why we want to ensure that nature features in the public debate.”

The Wildlife Trusts’ Chief Executive Stephanie Hilborne said:    

“We are part of the natural world.  We are not separate from it.  Yet we have tended to think we are and we have therefore seen massive declines in wildlife.  Now human health is suffering from a dramatic rise in stress related diseases – which we know contact with nature can help solve. Just as we are part of nature, so our country is part of Europe: our fish, dolphins, birds and insects see no boundaries and we are separated only by shallow seas.  The EU has the strongest body of environmental legislation anywhere in the world. Without it, in all probability our children would be swimming in sewage as they once did and we would have lost some of our finest wildlife sites – whether in Sherwood Forest or Dibden Bay in Hampshire.  The EU has inspired the UK’s own wildlife legislation and held us to account where we’ve faltered.  There are many reasons why people will vote ‘in’ or ‘out’ in the Referendum but if the UK goes it alone The Wildlife Trusts fear we may lose a vital insurance policy for our environment.” 

Notes to Editors:

THE EU REFERENDUM AND OUR ENVIRONMENT, a panel-led discussion chaired by Dame Fiona Reynolds, DBE, Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge will take place on  Wednesday 9th March from 9.45am to 11.15am at Bishop Partridge Hall, Church House, London SW1P 3NZ. 

The potential policy and environmental consequences for the UK of a departure from the European Union is available here. 

For more information contact:

Oliver Fry, WWF: 07855 456 453 / ofry@wwf.org.uk

Gareth Brede, RSPB: 01767 693221 / gareth.brede@rspb.org.uk

Anna Guthrie, Wildlife Trusts 01636 670075 / 07887 754 659 /aguthrie@wildlifetrusts.org.uk

  1. There are 47 individual Wildlife Trusts covering the whole of the UK.  All are working for an environment rich in wildlife for everyone.  We have more than 800,000 members including 150,000 members of our junior branch Wildlife Watch.  Our vision is to create A Living Landscape and secure Living Seas.  Every year we work with thousands of schools and our nature reserves and visitor centres receive millions of visitors. We manage around 2,300 nature reserves and every year we advise thousands of landowners and organisations on how to manage their land for wildlife. We also run marine conservation projects around the UK, collecting vital data on the state of our seas and celebrating our amazing marine wildlife.  Find out more at wildlifetrusts.org
  2. The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. It is the largest wildlife conservation organisation in Europe with more than one million members, including more than 230,000 youth members. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. It plays a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations. For more information visit www.rspb.org.uk
  3. WWF is one of the world’s largest independent conservation organisations, with more than five million supporters and a global network active in more than one hundred countries. Through our engagement with the public, businesses and government, we focus on safeguarding the natural world, creating solutions to the most serious environmental issues facing our planet, so that people and nature thrive.  Find out more about our work, past and present at www.wwf.org.uk
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