Ministers are currently examining the environmental impact of any new post Brexit trade agreements, the government has confirmed.
According to MPs’ recommendations, they will also investigate the possibility of applying a net gain policy to trade. This policy aims to leave the natural world in a better condition than before.
The Environmental Audit Committee made many suggestions last year. Report The report expressed concern about the potential impact of UK trade deals on international levels of biodiversity.
After a minister said last January that he supported the idea but could no longer make commitments on behalf of his government, the MPs called for sustainability impact assessments to be used by ministers.
The government’s response, published Monday, stated that it conducted impact assessments for post Brexit trade deals. These assessments look at many aspects of the environment including greenhouse gas emissions as well as air and water quality.
The Secretary of the State for International Trade will collaborate closely with other government departments to assess and improve the coverage and approach of FTAs.
The government acknowledged that it would be open to the possibility of including environmental net gain in trade decisions, but rejected the suggestion from the EAC to compare all tax changes to environmental goals.
The government stated that it was not practical, cost-effective or beneficial to examine the environmental effects of every tax change, such as personal allowances for income taxes.
Philip Dunne, Tory chair of The Environmental Audit Committee, stated that he was happy to see the government agreeing to some of the suggestions in the report on UK’s footprint on global biodiversity.
He said that incorporating nature protection into trade agreements not only protects biodiversity but also sends a clear message to trading partners that this must become a priority.
Katie White, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), welcomed confirmation that the government was paying more attention to the effects of trade on the environment.
She added that vague commitments regarding environmental assessments will not suffice – ministers must go further to use trade in order to facilitate the transition to greener agriculture.
This includes establishing core standards, including environmental, for all foods sold within the UK and a new legally binding target to reduce UK’s global carbon footprint by 2030.