Pledges made by pro-Brexit ministers to scrap the birds and habitats directive “in the heat of the campaign” should not set the tenor of post-Brexit environmental policy, the new UN environment chief, Erik Solheim, says in an interview with the Guardian.

Global or regional agreements are vital for cross-border problems such as pollution and wildlife crime, he said. Solheim has called for a post-Brexit Britain to link up with the EU on environment policy, adopting key bloc climate laws and maintaining its nature directives. He told the Guardian it was vital that supranational decisions continued for problems such as pollution and wildlife crime which crossed borders and could not be dealt with by states acting alone.

He said: “The UK can relate to the EU’s climate decisions and be covered by them, just as Norway and Switzerland are. Norway brought its emissions into the Emissions Trading System (ETS) and adopted nearly all of the EU’s environmental law. You can coordinate closely with the EU even if you’re outside it.”

“It is very, very important to defend these regional environmental mechanisms as there is no way we can protect migratory animals like birds in just one habitat. You need global or regional agreements and I’m absolutely confident that the UK will remain committed to this.” Maintaining environmental progress that the EU had driven forward would require “huge coordination in Europe, which will have to be done by the EU,” he argued.

August 2016