As the UK’s vote to leave the European Union sends shockwaves across the world, green groups warn the move cannot be an excuse to “go back to year zero on environmental protection”.
In the hours since the final votes were counted the pound has crashed to the lowest levels since 1985,UK prime minister David Cameron has announced his intentions to step down, and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said a second Scottish independence referendum was now highly likely.
The exact details of the UK’s exit from the European Union will be years in the making,but fears of prolonged uncertainty and a hiatus of clean energy investment are already palpable, as are worries that decades of progress on environmental legislation will be unpicked.
Coming halfway through what’s set to be the hottest year on record, and six months after nearly 200 countries agreed the Paris Agreement, the UK’s decision to leave the EU does not erase its strong commitment to decarbonise its economy.
Green groups now warn that there is no “time for the environment to take a back seat” and urge “politicians of all parties to affirm their commitment to strong environmental laws and to guarantee united action on climate change.”
- The UK public wants climate action: Brexit cannot be an excuse to roll-back progress. The UK has a legally binding commitment to cut emissions 80 per cent by 2050, and joined nearly 200 countries pledging to phase out fossil fuels under the Paris Agreement. Poll-after-poll shows the UK public overwhelmingly support strong climate ambition, cleaner air and the transition to clean, safe renewablesover dirty energy industries, such as fracking. The government has no choice but to “maintain existing policies” and the “many environmental benefits for citizens and nature” that the European Union has brought.
- Faced with economic and political uncertainty, reaffirming the UK’s commitment to clean energy will provide a measure of certainty in a volatile time. The UK energy system is deeply mixed-up with EU policies and today’s Brexit vote will add more woes to a renewables industry already plagued with uncertainty. Responsible for 117,000 jobs, and around £15 billion in economic gains, the UK’s bustling renewables industry is calling on the government to make “energy policy… a priority” and reaffirm its commitment to strong clean energy policies in line with – or stronger that – existing EU targets, to protect security, jobs and economic activity. Their message is clear: “the opportunities remain immense” and the UK government has more reason than ever to secure the huge benefits on offer.
- Climate change is a global problem, and all countries needs to step up their efforts. Environmental decline and climate change do not stop at borders, and as 2016 speeds ahead towards becoming the hottest year on record, urgent action is needed to prevent the worst of its impacts. Both the UK and other European Member States now face a choice, to remain “strong and effective advocates” for climate ambition, and work with international partners to “step up their efforts in delivering on the Paris Agreement” or risk their economies, endanger their citizens lives, and push themselves towards further isolation on the international stage.