What does Brexit do for sustainability?
All the chatter at the moment is of course centred on the pros and cons of the UK remaining in or exiting the EU. Personally, I am fed up listening to the political rallying back and forth and the point scoring that the media so love to cover and which makes it very difficult to separate the facts from the scaremongering. I decided I was going to figure out what issues were important to me and to go in search of some unbiased answers.
Having a secure livelihood, a decent standard of living, opportunities for my country to thrive in a modern global economy, the freedom to travel, good relations with neighbour countries, peace and security – all of these things are relevant to me in understanding the effects Brexit will have on the economy, both short and long term. To help, I attended a debate run by Queen’s University Belfast, where academics on both sides of the fence discussed issues such as energy security, trade deals with multinationals, support for agriculture etc. Following the debate, having weighed up the evidence provided on those issues related to the economy, and being risk adverse, I personally would prefer to see the UK remain within the EU.
However, another area of concern for me is the effect Brexit will have on environmental sustainability. Climate change in particular is not something that can be tackled effectively by a single government policy, by business or by the citizens in a single country. It needs collective and coordinated worldwide efforts.
Sadly, addressing climate change is not something that we will do on our own without regulation, even if we know that it will drastically change the world we leave to our children. Thus far, the benefits of the collective efforts of the European Union on issues of sustainability have been enormous. Through various legal interventions in Europe, we have seen greater protection of our natural environment, lower CO2 emissions, greater waste regulations and incentives to encourage moves towards a more circular economy.
Do we really think this will be an area of concern and focus for a UK government struggling to reinvent the economy in the event of a post-Brexit scenario? I highly doubt it. When fiscal purse strings are tightened, the first Department to take a hit is the Environment department – something we are all too aware of in Northern Ireland, especially in recent years.
At Business in the Community, we see that when business, government and society collaborate and share resources and skills to tackle issues, the results are incredible.
- Just recently, Energy Ministers from countries in Europe have signed an MoU in relation to cooperation in the offshore wind sector – a deal that aims to reduce costs and accelerate the deployment of wind power at sea through joint development and purchasing. http://www.edie.net/news/11/9-EU-countries-to-sign-offshore-wind-agreement/
- Danish and German governments have launched a programme to encourage the top 1,000 businesses in the world to source 100% of their energy from renewable sources. http://www.edie.net/news/10/Governments-target-1-000-businesses-to-commit-to-100–renewable-energy/
- Businesses across Europe are sharing and collaborating to change practices and move towards greener economies in their industries. One example is in the brewing industry, where Heineken – having collaborated with others – created its own value networks to drive resource efficiency, leading to the conversion of a 150-year-old brewery in Austria into a carbon-neutral plant. http://inhabitat.com/heineken-opens-the-worlds-first-large-scale-carbon-neutral-brewery-in-austria/
Europe, as a collaborative network, has always led the way in tackling climate change and environmental sustainability issues. With this in mind and with the fact that the political lobby is stronger here, through the likes of the Paris Agreement, it surely must be better for our environment in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world if the UK remains part of the EU and helps to lead the way in the fight for a sustainable world.
(Please note, views are the author’s own and do not constitute an official statement of policy or purpose by Business in the Community as an organisation)