April 17 (UPI) -- The British government needs to show global leadership in its effort to fight climate change as it charts its European divorce, environmentalists said.
Nearly a dozen climate advocacy groups ran an editorial in the Mail on Sunday urging British Prime Minister Theresa May to uphold commitments to the Paris climate deal and other agreements while she negotiates an exit from the European Union.
"The U.K. government has demonstrated significant leadership in ratifying the Paris climate change agreement and committing to host another high-level international summit on ending the illegal wildlife trade in London next year, so now is not the time to row back on its commitments," Tanya Steele, the CEO of advocacy group WWF, told UPI.
The WWF was joined by advocacy groups Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and nine others in expressing concerns about the climate implications of the so-called Brexit. The organizations pointed to documents from the government they've seen that suggest environmental safeguards could be watered down in order to improve British trade deals after the exit from the European Union.
Britain, under its Climate Change Act, committed to cutting emissions by 80 percent of the benchmark level from 1990 by 2050. The British Committee on Climate Change said in late 2016 that emissions were 38 percent below 1990 levels even as the economy grew by 60 percent.
John Gummer, the chairman of the committee, said last year the British government's support for the Paris climate agreement and steadfast support for low-carbon initiatives deserves credit, though ignoring things like drafty homes and heating systems means the targets could be out of reach.
The climate advocacy groups estimated tens of thousands of deaths in the country are attributed to air pollution each year. China, meanwhile, is taking a lead position in renewable energy, while Germany is moving ahead of the pack in terms of offshore wind energy deployments in Europe.
If London keeps its word on climate issues, the advocacy groups estimate renewable technology alone could create half a million new jobs by 2030.
The British government under May has offered support for the Paris climate deal. Her government started the formal process of leaving the European Union in March.