The UK is currently debating its future in the European Union and will be holding a referendum later this year. There are things to dislike about the EU, it is too bureaucratic and can seem to be interfering too much in national affairs. On the whole though, as an environmentalist I'm all in favour of the EU.
Well firstly, it seems clear to me that without the EU, the UK's environment, open spaces and wildlife would be a lot worse. This is where the EU interfering in national affairs is in my mind a very good thing (read this article from The Ecologist magazine on how the UK would be the 'dirty man of Europe' if it wasn't for European laws and regulations that ensure for example raw sewage isn't poured onto our beaches.)
The EU Habitats and Birds Directives and the related Natura 2000 co-ordinated network of protected areas are, to my mind, the most important thing about the EU (and remember I am speaking as an environmentalist here). According to this article on the Birdlife Europe website, Europe isn't doing enough to save its wildlife and wild spaces. On the other hand, the Directives have had positive impact on conserving wildlife across Europe and certainly in my mind the UKs wildlife would be the poorer for not having EU regulations to follow. The current UK Government, despite it's claims to be the 'greenest government ever' seems to have little idea what the environment is or why nature might matter and only the threat of sanctions from Europe really ensure that out special wildlife places are preserved.
There is currently debate in the EU about whether the Directives are fit for purpose (many in the conservation movement see this as an excuse for the EU to water down the protections). (I blogged previously about this issue here. ) The proposed refit of the directives lead to an unprecedented number of people supporting the directives as they stand and several governments of EU member states (including the UK, which actually contradicts to an extent what I said above about our government!) have opposed any change to the directives. The main problems with the directives seem to be that they are not always implemented fully and also they sometimes clash with the aims of other EU legislation (such as the Common Agricultural Policy.)
The Woodland Trust have an excellent blog post about the refit process here.
You can read the view from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) here.
The Guardian newspaper considers how EU membership is good for nature.
So if you care for nature and the environment, then please keep these issues in the forefront of your mind when deciding whether we should remain part of the EU or not.
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