Future of EU Nature Directives still uncertain following appointment of new Environment Secretary

Leaving the EU will help the environment, says Michael Gove

But the Government’s Repeal Bill fails to ease concerns over environmental protection

July 28th 2017

In a speech delivered in Woking at the UK headquarters of the WWF on Friday 21st July, Michael Gove, the new Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, presented his vision of a ‘Green Brexit.’ Michael Gove was appointed to the role on Sunday 11th June, following the General Election on Thursday 8th June 2017 and the subsequent Cabinet reshuffle. His appointment prompted a storm of protest, anger and dismay among environmental groups and campaigners, and was labelled as “bad news” by Liberal Democrat MP Ed Davey, formerly Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in the coalition government. Speaking to the Guardian, he said it was like “putting the fox in charge of the hen house.” Anyone who cared about the environment should be “deeply worried” by Gove’s appointment, he said. [1]

The Back Story: Michael Gove and climate change

In his former post, Ed Davey had a fundamental disagreement with Michael Gove in 2013 when Gove, then serving as Education Secretary, wanted to remove climate change from the National Curriculum for Geography, arguing that it should be taught as a topic within science. Michael Gove said this was part of a drive to slim down an unwieldy curriculum and to give teachers more flexibility, but he was forced to abandon the plans after a sustained campaign from environmentalists and teachers and intensive lobbying by Ed Davey, who argued that the topic would be downgraded by the plans, while the existence of climate change would be made more problematic as a result. [2] Responding to Gove’s appointment, environmentalists were also quick to point out that Michael Gove had a poor track record when it came to voting on important environmental issues, including measures to tackle climate change. In May 2016, for instance, Michael Gove voted not to reduce the permitted levels of carbon emissions from new homes. [3]

EU Habitats Directive is “holding back development,” says Michael Gove

Michael Gove has also criticised the rationale of the EU Nature Directives and suggested that these could be scrapped once the UK leaves the EU. On Wednesday 22nd March this year, a week before the Government presented its intention to leave the EU by triggering Article 50, Michael Gove spoke to a business audience at an event in Central London hosted by Advertising Week Europe. “If there are regulations which hold any business here back, we now have the potential to amend or even if necessary rescind them,” he said. He singled out the EU Habitats Directive in particular, and said that EU rules concerning the building of new homes in environmentally sensitive areas, including his own constituency, were holding back developments:

“I am very, very keen – I may be odd in this respect as a Conservative MP – on having more homes built in my constituency,” he said. “It’s a social and economic good. But homes built in my constituency are governed by the Habitats Directive. The Habitats Directive holds that if you build a home within five kilometres of a particular type of terrain, heathland, then you have to allocate, at the same time, something called suitable alternative natural green space to offset the environmental impact.” The directive “massively increases the cost and the regulatory burden for housing development,” he said. “As a result my constituents, and perhaps your children, find homes more expensive and mobility in this country impeded.” [4]

Speaking to the Guardian following his appointment, Caroline Lucas MP, co-leader of the Green Party, said it was hard to “think of many politicians as ill-equipped for the role of environment secretary as Michael Gove. His record of voting against measures to halt climate change and his attempt to wipe the subject from our children’s curriculum show him entirely unfit to lead our country in tackling one of the greatest threats we face… As we enter Brexit negotiations, Gove’s past suggestion we scrap vital EU environmental protections becomes even more concerning.” [5]

But the new Secretary wants to “listen and learn”

However, speaking on the Today programme on BBC Radio Four shortly after his appointment, Michael Gove said that his brief was to enhance the environment and that he wanted to listen and to learn. Martin Harper, the RSPB’s Director of Conservation, was quick to take him up on the suggestion. In an article posted the following day (Wednesday 14th June), he gave examples of five RSPB projects intended to help the new Secretary “devise the right plan to deliver the Government’s manifesto commitment to pass on the environment in a better state to the next generation.” The examples focused on food (the RSPB’s intensive arable farm near Cambridge, which has helped to increase the number of farmland birds while also maintaining profitability), housing (the RSPB’s partnership with Barratt Homes, beginning with a pioneering housing development at Aylesbury), water (the Sustainable Catchment Management Programme in the Peak District, in partnership with United Utilities), inspiration (the Wallasea Island Wild Coast project in Essex, “the largest managed realignment project in Europe”), and money (the impact of Darwin grants and EU Life funding). [6]

On that Wednesday, Martin Harper met with Michael Gove at Rainham Marshes, one of eleven RSPB reserves on the side of the Thames, and had what he describes as “a great conservation.” Martin Harper says he had been primed beforehand by Michael Gove’s wanting answers to the question: “If we want the UK’s approach to environmental protection and enhancement to be seen as the best in the world, what does that mean and what does it look like at a local, national and global level?” The conversation discussed marine conservation areas, deforestation, environmental supply chains, migratory birds, natural capital accounting, the Common Agricultural Policy, spatial planning, the National Planning Policy Framework, and local nature reserves (among other things). Martin Harper concludes: “While Mr Gove is still only in the fourth day of his new job, he is clearly keen to get out, meet people and see places. He also asked the right questions, took notes and listened. These are good signs.” [7]

Also on that Wednesday (14th June), Dr Euan Dunn, the RSPB’s Principal Marine Advisor, posted an article on new research led by the RSPB which showed a correlation between the breeding success (or failure) of kittiwakes on the Yorkshire coast and the abundance (or otherwise) of sandeels at Dogger Bank. [8] The sandeels are commercially fished by Denmark, under the terms of the Common Fisheries Policy. The research was published in the journal Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems on June 2nd. “There is a lively debate about how the UK should manage its fisheries once the UK leaves the European Union,” Dr Euan Dunn said. And Michael Gove added more substance to this debate when, on July 2nd, he announced the Government’s intention to withdraw from the London Fisheries Convention.

The Common Fisheries Policy and sustainability

The London Fisheries Convention is an agreement between the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands that allows those countries to fish within 6 and 12 nautical miles of each other’s coastlines. The agreement was signed in 1964 before the UK joined the EU and became party to the Common Fisheries Policy, which allows all EU countries to fish within 12 and 200 nautical miles off the UK coastline. On July 2nd, Michael Gove announced that the Government would be signalling its intention to withdraw from the London Fisheries Convention by triggering the two-year process of leaving. He said that leaving the EU would also mean leaving the Common Fisheries Policy. “We can then extend control of our waters up to 200 miles or the median line between Britain and France, and Britain and Ireland,” he said. The Common Fisheries Policy, which sets fish quotas as well as fishing rights, has been an environmental disaster, he said, “and one of the reasons we want to change it is that we want to ensure that we can have sustainable fish stocks for the future.” [9]

As reported by the Guardian, the news was welcomed by the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, but treated with caution by WWF UK, Greenpeace UK, and environmental lawyers Client Earth. Greenpeace UK said that sustainable fishing would only be achieved by government support for locally-based fishing communities, while Client Earth and the WWF said that maintaining sustainable fish stocks required cooperation and shared management rather than standing alone and unilaterally withdrawing from agreements. [10]

Was Michael Gove still listening and learning? In his keynote speech delivered last week (July 21st), he touched on many of the topics discussed in his conversations with the RSPB, including marine conservation. On fishing, he said that fishing had “powerfully engaged” his emotions, citing his personal connections with the industry. “My father, grandfather and great grandfather all made their living from the sea,” he said. “My great grandfather was a fisherman, my grandfather and father fish merchants. My father’s business closed in the 1980s when I was a schoolboy, one of many that closed after this country accepted EU control of our waters through the Common Fisheries Policy. The CFP has had a profound impact on the UK’s coastal communities. But its most profound impact has been on the sustainability of our fish stocks.” [11]

He said that, though some improvements had been made, it was still the case that 40% of fish stocks in the Atlantic, North Sea and Baltic Sea are being fished at unsustainable levels. By leaving the CFP, he argued, Britain will be taking back control of its territorial waters, “granting access to other countries and allocating quotas all on the basis of what is scientifically sustainable.” This, in turn, he added, should lead to the revival of the UK’s coastal communities and a sustainable fishing industry.

“I am an environmentalist,” says Michael Gove

In this keynote speech, Michael Gove seemed determined to appease the concerns over his appointment and to display his environmental credentials. “I am an environmentalist,” he declared, and his speech was addressed to environmentalists first and foremost. He praised the work of organisations such as the WWF, the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth – many of whom were represented in the audience – for their “campaigning energy and idealism” which he said was “vital to ensuring we continue to make progress in protecting and enhancing our environment.”

He gave two reasons for his environmentalism. “I am an environmentalist first because I care about the fate of fellow animals,” he said. He spoke about drawing inspiration from nature and quoted a number of literary sources in his speech, and he spoke about growing up between the North Sea and the Cairngorms, spending weekends in the hills and weekdays with his head in Wordsworth and Hardy, Gibbon and Edward Thomas, and growing up “with an emotional attachment to natural beauty which inevitably influences my feelings towards questions on everything from architecture to ivory.” But, he said, “I am also an environmentalist because of hard calculation as well as the promptings of the heart.” If we don’t maintain and enhance the natural world around us, he explained, we shall find ourselves facing disaster.

It was in this latter context that he spoke about climate change, citing the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond, and the risks of flood damage, water shortages, enforced migration, habitat destruction, economic disasters, interstate conflict, and many other threats faced by the globe if action was not taken. “Now, it is because environmental degradation is such a threat to future prosperity and security that I deeply regret President Trump’s approach towards the Paris Agreement on Climate Change,” he said. He “sincerely hoped” that the President would have a change of heart. “International cooperation to deal with climate change is critical if we’re to safeguard our planet’s future and the world’s second biggest generator of carbon emissions cannot simply walk out of the room when the heat is on,” he said.

The Common Agricultural Policy and the future of farming

But the main theme of his speech was the opportunities for greater environmental protection, presented by the UK’s decision to leave the EU. He acknowledged that the EU had “in a number of ways” been a force for environmental good: “Our beaches are cleaner, habitats are better protected and pesticides more effectively regulated as a consequence of agreements that we reached since we entered the EU. And I have no intention of weakening the environmental protections that we have put in place while in the European Union.” However, he singled out the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy as “the two areas where the EU has most clearly failed to achieve its stated environmental goals.”

Michael Gove spoke at length on the failings of the Common Agricultural Policy and the future of farming once the UK leaves the EU, restating the Government’s pledge to match the £3 billion that farmers currently receive in support from the EU until 2022. On the failings of the CAP, he said: “The Common Agricultural Policy rewards size of land-holding ahead of good environmental practice, and all too often puts resources in the hands of the already wealthy rather than into the common good of our shared natural environment. It also encourages patterns of land use which are wasteful of natural resources and often intrinsically poor value rather than encouraging imaginative and environmentally enriching alternatives.” He said that farmers themselves had seen how the CAP “holds back productivity, impedes progressive environmental stewardship, and works against their natural instincts.”

He spoke about a recent report from the Adaptation Sub-Committee of the Committee on Climate Change, which suggests that EU-inspired farming approaches have led to soil degradation and decreasing fertility. “The effect is most noticeable in what has been some of our most fertile growing soil in the Fens,” he said, “where a combination of the draining of the peat and the disappearance of hedges and trees over the years has led to a thinning of productive earth. According to the Committee’s report, Britain has lost 84% of fertile topsoil since 1850 and the erosion continues in some areas at between 1cm and 3cm a year.” This was obviously unsustainable, he said, “which is why we need to take the opportunity that being outside the Common Agricultural Policy will give us to use public money to reward environmentally-responsible land use.”

The Government would continue to support farming, he said, not least because the UK is dependent on agriculture for the production of high quality food, and he mentioned hill farmers in particular, saying support was critical for the management of upland areas and landscapes such as the Lake District. However, future government support would depend on reform, he said. Conversations with farmers, landowners, and organisations such as the NFU, had led him to conclude “there is a growing appetite for a new system of agricultural support” which prioritises environmental protection and enhancement. He talked about higher standards of animal welfare, support for woodland creation and the Government’s aim of planting 11m. more trees, and support for protecting the range of habitats that will encourage biodiversity (including heathland, bog, meadow and marsh). “Now doing this well depends on developing the skills and farming practices of landowners and managers,” he said. “And understanding how to create and protect habitats should be as much a part of good farming as understanding the latest crop and soil science.”

Ambition: Michael Gove sets out his vision of a Greener Britain

Raising standards was a recurring theme in Michael Gove’s speech. Leaving the EU presented Britain with the historic opportunity to “establish ourselves as the home of the highest environmental standards,” he said. It opened up the opportunity to review government policies on agriculture, land use, biodiversity, woodlands, marine conservation, fisheries, pesticide licensing, chemical regulation, animal welfare, habitat management, waste, water purity, air quality, “and so much more.” Elsewhere in his speech, marine conservation, soil protection, river management, and bio-security were added to the list. Outside the EU, “there is scope for Britain to be a global leader in environmental policy across the board,” he said. His vision was for Britain to develop “global gold standard policies” which would be informed by “rigorous scientific analysis.” And in setting out a vision of the future, he said: “We should not aim simply to halt or slow the deterioration of our environment. We must raise our ambitions so we seek to restore nature and reverse decline.”

A packed agenda

The list of environmental issues that the Environment Secretary wants to tackle was wide-ranging. It included, for instance, waste management and recycling, with the suggestion that leaving the EU could mean a smarter and more targeted approach to incentivising recycling; one that could be based on environmental impact and value of the material, rather than a weight-based system. In the immediate term, a number of concrete proposals were mentioned, which were at various stages of implementation:

Pollution from plastic products: On the day of his speech (July 21st), the Government would be publishing its response to a consultation on the use of micro-plastics (known as microbeads) in personal cosmetic products, which end up in the oceans with the potential to cause harm to marine life. Legislation on banning the use of such products would be introduced later this year. The Environment Secretary also wanted to reduce the amount of plastic bottles entering UK waters. [12]

The Air Quality Plan: Due to be published at the end of this month following a court ruling. [13]

The 25-year Plan for the Natural Environment, which has been “longer in gestation than a baby elephant”: The Environment Secretary has written to the Chair of the Natural Capital Committee, seeking advice on what the Plan “should aim to achieve and how it should seek to do so,” hopefully including a rigorous methodology for setting goals and reporting success or failure. The Committee has agreed to provide feedback by September 2017, “laying the ground for subsequent publication” by Defra. [14]

The Clean Growth Plan: Due to be launched this autumn 2017 by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The plan “should reinforce our ambition to be the home of the most economically and environmentally ambitious policies in the areas of clean green technology, from energy generation to transport, the circular economy to house building.”

• The Government’s second National Adaptation Programme: In 2018, the Environment Secretary will be publishing “a comprehensive plan of action to improve our resilience to climate change.”

Marine sanctuaries: Plans to complete a ‘Blue Belt’ of marine protected areas around the UK, together with plans for similar areas around Britain’s overseas territories, would see the creation of the world’s largest marine sanctuaries. The aim is to deliver over 4m. square kilometres of protected maritime areas by 2020. The Government will also continue to support the moratorium on commercial whaling, he said.

Defra versus the Government?

Michael Gove did not have long to wait for responses to his speech. Damien Carrington, the Guardian’s Environment Editor, said: “Gove’s vision for the environment is undoubtedly ambitious but it is at odds with much government action – making it real will be a gargantuan task.” [15] To quote one instance, he pointed to an article in the Independent on the Government’s plan to give the UK’s most energy-intensive companies a £130m exemption from the climate change fund, which campaigners argue will mean some of the country’s biggest polluters will end up paying less while ordinary customers will end up making up the difference. [16] This “£130m bung, shifting the costs of supporting new clean energy on to the public,” was announced the day before Michael Gove promised to take on vested interests, he says. On reforming the farming subsidy regime, Damien Carrington said this would also prove a difficult task given that the Government had already demonstrated its inability to pay EU subsidies on time. “Nonetheless,” he concludes, “Gove’s speech was important, rightly placing the environment at the heart of the nation’s and the world’s well-being, prosperity and security.”

Michael Gove has a reputation for dramatic changes of opinion, and it does seem remarkable that it was only in March that he was criticising the EU Habitats Directive for holding back development, singling out heathland in particular as a habitat in his own constituency that was hampering house building. Four months later, heathland joins the list of habitats that “need care and attention if they are to provide homes to the growing diversity of animal and plant life that we should wish to encourage.” ‘Habitats’ are mentioned eight times in his speech. And far from wanting to scrap the EU Nature Directives, he now says habitats are better protected because of EU regulation and he has no intention of weakening the environmental protections provided by the Directives. However, in March he was addressing business and not as a member of the Cabinet; last week he was addressing environmentalists as the new Environment Secretary. Should environmentalists believe that this keynote speech represents a sincere change of opinion based on a period of listening and learning?

Caroline Lucas of the Green Party is sceptical about his environmental credentials. Speaking to the Guardian’s Political Editor Jessica Elgot, she said: “Gove’s overture to the environment might make him sound like a keen defender of nature but his government’s actions suggest that protecting our natural world is a long way from the top of their priority list. There is an environment-shaped hole in the government’s Brexit plans. They failed to announce any kind of environmental protection bill in the Queen’s speech, and we still don’t know how they will transfer enforcement powers from EU institutions to the UK.” [17]

Martin Harper of the RSPB broadly welcomed the speech, saying it showed “personal commitment, a clear analysis as to why nature is in trouble, and an ambition to restore nature.” He also said Michael Gove was right in suggesting that farmers should be rewarded for restoring wildlife and protecting natural resources. [18] However, he also expressed concerns over the legal aspects of leaving the EU. “Michael Gove gave us an indication that he was prepared to look at how you replace the enforcement powers currently provided by the EU,” he says: “To do that he’s going to have to influence the current Repeal Bill to make sure not only do we maintain existing levels of protection afforded by EU law, but also that we work out how to ensure that the laws are then enforced.”

Legal Issues: The Government’s Repeal Bill

The Government’s European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (also known as the Repeal Bill) was published on 13th July. [19] The purpose of the Bill is to transfer all EU law into domestic law so that the law will be the same on the day of departing the EU as it was on the day before. In theory, this sounds like a simple operation, but the situation is far more complicated, as Martin Harper pointed out two weeks ago. Firstly, there is the question of underlying principles, including the “over-arching environmental principles enshrined in European Treaties, such as the polluter pays and the precautionary principle.” [20] If these vital principles are not also translated into domestic law, the UK’s environmental protection will be substantially watered down, he says. The Repeal Bill fails to guarantee that these key environmental principles will be transferred to domestic legislation.

Secondly, there is the problem of delegated powers and scrutiny. The laws cannot be transported in their entirety as they contain references to European agencies and institutions; hence some amendments will have to be made to change those references to new or existing domestic agencies and institutions. The Government plans to give Ministers delegated powers to make such amendments. However, there is no guarantee of parliamentary scrutiny of such changes, or that these delegated powers will not be used to make substantial changes. Additionally, the Repeal Bill fails to provide a guarantee that future changes to these transferred EU environmental laws will be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny, so there is no certainty that delegated powers will not be used in the future to make changes to their scope or their purpose.

Thirdly, there is the question of enforcement. Currently, it is EU institutions that monitor compliance with environmental legislation. Martin Harper says that leaving the EU will leave us with a large gap in governance: “The Repeal Bill fails to provide any certainty as to how important environmental standards and principles will be upheld. Instead an environmental fact sheet accompanying the Bill reiterates the government’s position that future enforcement of environmental protections will be done by judicial review and parliament. This is considerably weaker than the current powers exercised by the European Court of Justice.” [21] The European Court of Justice handles proceedings against EU member states who have failed to comply with their environmental obligations; it also has the power to impose financial penalties for non-compliance. There will be no equivalent enforcement body on leaving the EU.

However, on 3rd July (prior to the Bill’s publication), a group of lawyers announced they were taking steps to ensure that EU environmental protection mechanisms would not be jettisoned after the UK leaves the EU. The lawyers are members of the UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA) and the ‘task force’ is being led by Richard Macrory, Professor of Environmental Law at University College London. Speaking to the Guardian, he said: “The last thing we want to find in Britain is a whole lot of legal gaps in the protections… One of the most important functions of the EU has been to supervise how member states implement their obligations. These processes apply to all areas of law but the majority of cases have been brought in the environmental sector.” [22] On the question of what will replace the monitoring and enforcement role of EU institutions, he said. “The government response to date has been rather unimaginative and minimalist – they say we can rely on judicial reviews brought by NGOs. We will question whether relying on judicial review is a sufficient substitute for a more systematic and independent supervisory function performed by the Commission.”

Writing in the Guardian on the enforcement issue, Sandra Laville summarises the results of a House of Lords inquiry into the impact of Brexit on climate change and the environment. [23] The inquiry concluded that enforcement will need to be underpinned by judicial oversight and that existing domestic judicial review procedures may be inadequate and costly. In short, judicial reviews in domestic courts would not amount to a sufficient enforcement body: “The evidence… strongly suggests that an effective and independent domestic enforcement mechanism will be necessary in order to fill the vacuum left by the European Commission.” Sarah Mukherjee, Environment Director for Water UK (the body that represents water companies), told the inquiry that it was the ability to impose financial sanctions which focused government minds: “Governments pay a lot of attention to the risk of being infracted because it is very expensive and it is not brilliant for your reputation,” she said.

Moving the Goalposts: Limiting access to justice

A judicial review can cost thousands of pounds. Richard Macrory of UKELA compared this with a citizen complaint which an individual can take to the EC for the price of a stamp if they believe their government has not upheld environmental protections or broken laws relating to the environment. In a further development, the UK Government has made it even more difficult to mount legal challenges on environmental issues. Changes to the rules announced last November and introduced in February give judges the ability to increase or decrease the cap on costs midway through a case, making the costs of mounting a legal challenge uncertain. [24] People bringing environmental court cases will also have to provide more financial information. Environmental lawyers Client Earth say this will make an already arduous process even more difficult, while the introduction of uncertainty is contrary to the Aarhus Convention, a UN agreement which the UK has signed and is designed to ensure access to justice for environmental cases.

In response to these changes, Client Earth has joined forces with the RSPB and Friends of the Earth to mount a legal challenge. The case had an initial hearing at the High Court on Wednesday 19th July, two days before the new Environment Secretary made his keynote speech. David Wolfe QC, representing the three organisations, argued that the rules do not follow the spirit of the Aarhus Convention. Client Earth says: “The UK government must ensure environmental cases are not prohibitively expensive and they must remove or reduce financial and other barriers to access to justice.” [25] The case continues.

Given that the Government has now been defeated twice in a legal challenge to its plans to tackle air pollution, it would not be surprising to see a determined effort to defend its moves to make environmental cases more difficult to bring to court. Which is not a strong indicator that “leaving the EU will help the environment.” To quote Michael Gove: “Ultimately, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat and the energy which powers enterprise, are all threatened if we do not practice proper stewardship of the planet.” Fine words, but government actions make them sound rather hollow.


Photograph: RSPB Rainham Marshes, Visitor Centre © Copyright Paul Farmer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence. Three days into his new role as Environment Secretary, Michael Gove met with Martin Harper of the RSPB at Rainham Marshes on 14th June as he embarked on a project of ‘listening and learning.’ Many of the topics discussed found their way into his keynote speech delivered at the WWF UK headquarters on 21st July.


[1] ‘Michael Gove as environment secretary is “fox in charge of hen house”‘, Matthew Taylor, The Guardian, 12 June 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/12/michael-gove-entirely-unfit-to-be-environment-secretary-says-greens.

[2] ‘Michael Gove abandons plans to drop climate change from curriculum’, Patrick Wintour, The Guardian, 5 July 2013. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2013/jul/05/michael-gove-climate-change-geography-curriculum.

[3] ‘Climate Change: Michael Gove generally voted against measures to prevent climate change’, They Work For You. Retrieved from: https://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/11858/michael_gove/surrey_heath/divisions?policy=1030.

[4] ‘Slash EU regulations on wildlife protection and drug safety trials after Brexit, Michael Gove urges’, Jon Stone, The Independent, 25 March 2017. Retrieved from: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-eu-regulations-michael-gove-environment-drugs-a7649041.html.

[5] Ibid: see [1].

[6] ‘A chance for the new Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, to “listen and learn”‘, Martin Harper, RSPB, 14 June 2017. Retrieved from: http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/b/martinharper/archive/2017/06/14/a-chance-for-the-new-environment-secretary-michael-gove-to-listen-and-learn.aspx. On the Aylesbury development, see the ENA UK article ‘Barratt Developments and RSPB sign national agreement for wildlife-friendly housing development’.

[7] ‘A chance for the new Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, to “listen and learn” (part 2)’, Martin Harper, RSPB, 15 June 2017. Retrieved from: http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/b/martinharper/archive/2017/06/15/a-chance-for-the-new-environment-secretary-michael-gove-to-listen-and-learn-part-2.aspx.

[8] ‘Protecting our Seabirds in Post-Brexit Waters’, Euan Dunn, RSPB, 14 June 2016. Retrieved from: http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/b/martinharper/archive/2017/06/14/protecting-our-seabirds-in-post-brexit-waters.aspx. The research paper ‘Kittiwake breeding success in the southern North Sea correlates with prior sandeel fishing mortality’ was published in Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems and is available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/aqc.2780/full.

[9] ‘UK to “take back control” of waters after exiting fishing convention’, Frances Perraudin, The Guardian, 2 July 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/02/uk-take-back-control-london-fisheries-convention-michael-gove.

[10] Ibid: see [9].

[11] ‘The Unfrozen Moment – Delivering A Green Brexit’, Michael Gove, 21 July 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-unfrozen-moment-delivering-a-green-brexit.

[12] See the ENA UK article ‘New research shows cosmetic products contain large quantities of micro-plastics’.

[13] In April 2015, the UK Supreme Court ordered the UK Government to take immediate action to tackle air pollution following a successful legal challenge from environmental lawyers Client Earth. The lawyers went to court again when the Government’s plans published in December 2015 were deemed inadequate. Client Earth says levels of nitrogen dioxide are over the legal limit in 37 out of 43 zones in the UK, as defined by EU standards. The Government’s latest plans were published two days ago (26th July). For the full saga, see ClientEarth.

[14] On the 25-year plan for the natural environment, see the ENA UK article ‘Defra responds to recommendations of Natural Capital Committee’.

[15] ‘Michael Gove’s green dream: like Brexit, the reality awaits’, Damien Carrington, The Guardian, 21 July 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/21/michael-goves-green-dream-like-brexit-the-reality-awaits.

[16] ‘UK’s most energy-intensive companies to get £130m exemption from climate change fund’, Ian Johnston, The Independent, 20 July 2017. Retrieved from: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/uk-energy-intensive-pollution-companies-climate-change-fund-exemption-targets-regulation-global-a7851326.html.

[17] ‘Michael Gove “deeply regrets” Trump’s approach to Paris climate agreement’, Jessica Elgot, The Guardian, 21 July 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jul/21/michael-gove-farmers-must-prove-they-deserve-subsidies-after-brexit.

[18] ‘A reflection on Michael Gove’s first major environment speech’, Martin Harper, RSPB, 21 July 2017. Retrieved from: http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/b/martinharper/archive/2017/07/21/an-ambitious-start-from-michael-gove.aspx.

[19] The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (commonly known as the Repeal Bill) is available as a PDF from the UK Parliament website at https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2017-2019/0005/18005.pdf.

[20] ‘Great or otherwise, the Repeal Bill is a big deal for nature’, Martin Harper, RSPB, 12 July 2017. Retrieved from:
. The precautionary principle has a dedicated website at ‘The Precautionary Principle’.

[21] ‘Initial reaction to the Repeal Bill’, Martin Harper, RSPB, 13 July 2017. Retrieved from: http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/b/martinharper/archive/2017/07/13/initial-reaction-to-the-repeal-bill.aspx.

[22] ‘Lawyers plan to stop UK dropping EU rules on environment after Brexit’, Sandra Laville, The Guardian, 3 July 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/03/lawyers-plan-to-stop-uk-dropping-eu-rules-on-environment-after-brexit-taskforce-protections-law. For information on the UK Environmental Law Association, see UKELA.

[23] Ibid: see [22]. The House of Lords report which followed their inquiry was published on 14th February 2017 and is available as a PDF from the UK Parliament website at https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201617/ldselect/ldeucom/109/109.pdf.

[24] ‘New UK rules make it harder to bring environmental court cases’, Client Earth, 23 November 2016. Retrieved from: https://www.clientearth.org/new-uk-rules-make-harder-bring-environmental-court-cases/.

[25] ‘New government rules on environmental cases “move financial goalposts”, court hears’, Client Earth, 20 July 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.clientearth.org/new-government-rules-environmental-cases-move-financial-goalposts-court-hears/.