Brexit is the ultimate test of government’s environmental commitment

The outcome of the EU referendum has divided opinion, but within the sustainability sector there appears to be real concern that the absence of legislation from Brussels could have long-term impacts on the local and global environment.

Much of the relevant legislation the sustainability profession has worked to for decades stems from the groundwork done around negotiating tables across Europe. Many believe the UK would not be as far forward in terms of its environmental policy were it not for the EU. Likewise, many recognise there is much, much more to do and the absence of an EU platform could lead to a ‘relaxation’ of environmental red tape.

The Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment was quick to comment, with its chief policy advisor, Martin Baxter, saying: ‘It is [therefore] essential that the government gives a commitment that, in negotiating the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU, an equivalent or enhanced level of environmental protection and climate policy will be implemented here in the UK.’

But, the director of the Association for Decentralised Energy, Tim Rotheray, believes the industry can prosper despite the UK’s decision to leave the European Union and suggests there is ‘plenty of opportunity’ for growth in the UK’s burgeoning heat sector despite the decision, while conceding it is ‘very difficult to actually know precisely what the impact will be’.

Of course, the uncertainty that exists now only adds risk to investment decisions, provides excuses to not implement and will, naturally, mean that investors will put their cash where they have greater certainty of cash value and policy. This limbo position won’t help the market for investment in renewables. Our own government has flip-flopped enough with energy policy for decades – now, with uncertainty surrounding trade deals and energy this will likely add cost to supplies and infrastructure investment.

Which is why, sensibly, Baxter recognises an immediate test of the government’s commitment to environment and sustainability lies in the adoption of the UK’s Fifth Carbon Budget.

‘We urge the government to adopt the independent Committee on Climate Change recommendation for a 57% emissions reduction, giving a clear and positive signal of its long-term environmental commitment’.

Photo by jeffdjevdet

Andy Nolan

Andy Nolan

Andy Nolan is director of sustainability at the University of Nottingham. He is writing in a personal capacity. https://aardvarknoseface.wordpress.com | @andynolanEJ

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