EU Referendum - Environment
Freinds of the Earth
May 26th 2016
Cardiff

It is very fitting that we have this important meeting in Cardiff because it is a little known fact that one of the earliest adopted methods of integrating environmental considerations into all EU activities is called the Cardiff Process. This was adopted here in the city in June1998 when the UK held the EU presidency and one of the summits was held in Cardiff. It's something I've often mentioned but it doesn't get much attention!

UK and EU law are closely intertwined when it comes to the environment. The EU has a clear commitment to "preserve, protect and improve the quality of the environment; to contribute towards protecting human health; and to ensure a prudent and rational utilisation of natural resources".

Certainly the EU has had an overwhelmingly positive effect on our environment through legislation that would not have happened otherwise. We cannot be certain that we would not lose all that if the UK votes to leave. From my experience as an MEP over 17 years I would predict that we will lose many of the hard fought protections that others, including the UK government, see as obstacles to business and profit. Maybe not overnight but over time.

We should remember too though that Wales has contributed to the rest of the EU in this respect. We were the first to embed a commitment to sustainable development in the constitution of our National Assembly. In addition, we put a 5p charge on plastic carrier bags way before the EU adopted similar measures. So it is a two way relationship - as it should be between partners.

Wales is not an equal partner, of course, as it is not an independent member state, but there is a lot of scope for developing a more direct way of working between the Welsh Government and the Commission and that is one of the reforms I hope the new WG and Assembly will take on board.

The cleanliness of our beaches, our air quality, disposal of waste and hazardous substances, standards of food, a recycling culture, cutting the use of pesticides, and much more are all regulated by the EU. It was my petition to the European Parliament that helped us get Nantygwyddon Landfill Site in the Rhondda closed because it was breaching the Waste Framework Directive.

As a member of the Environment and Public Health Committee I have been involved in drafting, debating and deciding on much of this legislation. It has been a common situation for us to be trying to persuade the UK not to water down or even block new laws to protect health and the environment. So we have depended on the EU to push the UK further.

And I have done this too by working on many campaigns with many different organisations. Like the REACH chemical laws, to phase out the most dangerous chemicals in everyday products and the law I steered through on reducing chemicals in electronic equipment which meant it couldn't be recycled. Most recently TTIP. Leaving the EU won't make that go away - in fact we will be in a weaker position to oppose TTIP.

And of course climate diplomacy is one of the best examples of EU countries working together to strengthen their collective voices on the global stage, the most recent example being COP21 in Paris. The EU successfully used its position as an ambitious block of developed countries to bridge the conflict with developing countries by recruiting over 100 countries to the High Ambition Coalition. The UK was have much less influence on its own.

It is in Wales's interests to remain in the EU: environmentally, socially, culturally and economically. There is so much potential for Wales to protect and promote our invaluable natural resources and to continue to work with our partners for more effective global action too.

So our priority is now to vote to stay in the EU and celebrate what a remarkable achievement it is, but that is not the end. We want to reclaim Europe for its people and for the environment. There is a lot we want to change but you can't do that by cursing the darkness. You do it by lighting a candle.

Jill Evans MEP

Photo: Jill Evans