Brexit won’t affect Britain’s commitment to the environment, Therese Coffey tells Snape Maltings conference

Speakers at the Suffolk Coastal and Estuaries Conference, Snape Maltings, Oct 2016. Dr Therese Coffe

Speakers at the Suffolk Coastal and Estuaries Conference, Snape Maltings, Oct 2016. Dr Therese Coffey MP - Credit: Ruth Leach

Brexit will not lead to Britain deciding to “rip up” environmental legislation that is enshrined in European directives – but it offers a “great opportunity to take a more holistic approach” to the full suite of environmental issues that face the nation, a Suffolk MP said yesterday.

Britain’s EU departure gave greater urgency to the Government’s yet-to-be-published 25-year environmental plan, Defra minister and Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey told an environmental resilience conference at Snape Maltings.

“We have said we want to leave the environment in a better place than we found it and the 25-year plan environment plan is a very important part of that,” she said.

Dr Coffey was a key speaker at Suffolk Coast Forum’s coast and estuaries conference at which the main theme was communities’ resilience to the changes that are being driven by immense natural forces triggered by climate change and sea level rise on what is one of Britain’s most dynamic coastlines.

Some elements of the EU’s environmental directives “clashed with each other” and some were “written in the 1990s”, Dr Coffey said. Leaving the EU did not mean the UK Government would “rip up” such environmental legislation.

However, she said: “The Government’s 25-year plan offers a great opportunity to think about the outcomes we want to see and about how we can work towards that, in particular on water and flooding. We can really take the opportunity to adopt a more holistic approach.”

She referred to the significance in the 25-year plan of the “concept of natural capital”, the wide-ranging economic, social and wellbeing services that are offered to society by maintaining ecosystems that are healthy and strongly protected – a concept later explored and promoted at the conference by one of Britain’s leading environmentalists, Tony Juniper.

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The plan was taking account of the concept, said Dr Coffey. “We are starting to think about the environment in which we live, everything – the air we breathe, the water we need, the food we produce – and about how all that is bound together to make sensible outcome-based decisions.”

She added: “This is a very exciting time to be able to shape environmental plans that benefit our country in ways that are bespoke to Britain.”