Boris Johnson

Editorial – Brexit could have serious climate change and environmental consequences

Britain’s vote to leave the EU could have serious implications for tackling climate change. Photo credit: Neil Hall / Reuters.

Let us be clear, this is an editorial we never hoped we had to write. But in the early hours of Friday morning, it was clear that the UK public had voted to leave the EU.

Many things are still unclear, and there are even some who suggest that the UK might not leave after all, but we can’t speculate on that and for now we can only assume that the UK will indeed leave the EU.
There are serious concerns for how the UK, and indeed the world, would respond to tackling climate change post-EU. The most worrying aspect, reported in Saturday’s Guardian, is that Brexit could delay the implementation of the Paris Agreement, which means that Donald Trump if he were to become the next US President, would have a higher chance of vetoing it.

It is exactly because we believe that Brexit would not only have a negative impact on the UK, but also a negative global impact that we have taken a leading interest in it. And it was Stephen Tindale who, in our ‘Conversations with Experts’ series, told us that when it comes to climate change, the UK is a leader and not a follower. Without the UK in the EU, the climate change ambition in the Union could be significantly weaker.

And then there is the fact that many of the leading Brexit campaigners are climate sceptics. Boris Johnson, who is widely anticipated to be the UK’s next Prime Minister, sadly does not share the views of his father, environmental campaigner and former MEP, Stanley Johnson. While not explicitly stating so,Johnson junior has flirted with climate scepticism on numerous occasions in the past.
Greenpeace UK has raised their concerns about the impact of Brexit, in a statement: “There is a very real fear that Cameron’s successor will come from the school that supports a bonfire of anti-pollution protections. The climate-change-denying wing of the Conservative Party will be strengthened by this vote for Brexit. That means the green movement, indeed every Briton who values a clean and safe environment, will need to stand up for nature in the face of an attack on the natural world.”
We, of course, very much hope we’re wrong on this issue and the future of our environment will be protected for generations to come. Michael Liebreich, Brexiteer and founder of  clean energy analysts, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), claimed that the UK would be much better positioned to tackle climate change outside the EU, arguing that the Union had failed to encourage innovation crucial to tackling the climate crisis.

We very much hope he is correct. For now, there are serious concerns about the UK’s ability to tackle climate change in a post-EU future.

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