Michael Gove speaking at a Green Alliance event in 2017

Greener UK reacts to Michael Gove’s last major environment speech

On 16 July 2019 Defra Secretary Michael Gove delivered a speech at Kew Gardens, in which he emphasised the scale of the environmental crisis and outlined a bold vision for tackling it. It was to be Mr Gove's last major speech as secretary of state.

Amy Mount, head of the Greener UK unit, welcomed the speech for recognising the scale of the challenge ahead, and the need for an urgent response. However, there remain concerns that the UK’s ability to act urgently would be severely impaired by the disruption likely to be caused by a no deal Brexit or a rapidly negotiated trade deal with the United States that accepted a weakening of standards.

Amy Mount from the Greener UK coalition said:

“Michael Gove has thrown down the gauntlet to the next prime minister, rightly emphasising that legally binding targets and a strong independent watchdog are necessary if we are to address the environmental crisis.

“Yet the crucial decisions will still be made by Theresa May’s successor, and all these great proposals could be scuppered with a disruptive no-deal Brexit or undermined by a hasty low-standards trade deal with the United States.”

Mr Gove delivered his speech as 43 organisations wrote to the Conservative and Liberal Democrat leadership candidates urging them to prioritise the climate and environmental emergency and commit to ramping up policies and investment.

Organisations from the National Trust and Greenpeace to CAFOD and the Women’s Institute called on Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Jo Swinson and Sir Ed Davey to outline how they would get the UK on track to tackling the environmental crisis.

They referenced the political demands of the recent ‘Time is Now’ mass lobby, organised by Greener UK and The Climate Coalition, which included:

  1. A flagship Environment Act with ambitious legally binding targets for air, water, wildlife, waste and plastic, and our global footprint – and a powerful independent watchdog to make sure these are achieved
  2. Rapid action to phase out fossil fuels and slash emissions, to get us on track to net zero by 2045 at the latest
  3. Increased investment to tackle the climate and environmental emergency, fairly and democratically, including government spending of at least 2% of GDP per year for climate action and restoring nature, both at home and abroad, starting now
  4. Putting environment and climate action at the heart of the UK’s international agenda, and ruling out signing trade deals with countries that are not implementing the Paris Agreement or upholding human rights and environmental standards

These points are explained in more detail in this booklet.

Liberal Democrat MPs Jo Swinson and Sir Ed Davey have already replied confirming they support all points raised in the letter.

(Note: the picture above is not from today's speech, but from a Green Alliance event in 2017).