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Brexit: Environmental Uncertainty In the UK

EmmamHowe MA, United States 0 Ratings 13 Discussions 8 Group posts

Posted by: EmmamHowe // Marketing/Green Policy Development

The passing of the Brexit referendum marks a blaring environmental conundrum: how will Brexit effect green business and green building in the UK? The EU regulations on the environment and energy efficiency have been the primary reason for the UK’s successful and regulatory environmental efforts, so many are asking the dreaded question, now what happens?

When the Brexit referendum was initially in debate, a variety of topics were discussed--immigration, the UK’s economy, education, political freedom--yet, the area of environment and sustainability was largely ignored. This is especially surprising, as the EU and UK legislation have always been closely interconnected and the UK has been one of the most active countries in contributing to the EU debates and decisions on the issue. With the uncertainty of the UK’s future relationship with the EU, there is no doubt we will see changes in the UK’s climate policy, but two questions still remain: what will those changes entail and how will they affect global climate policy?

Some green building supporters see light at the end of the Brexit tunnel, such as UK Green Building Council campaign and policy director John Alker, who believes his members will “remain committed to sustainability” regardless of the political situation in the UK. Mat Lown, sustainability partner at construction consultant Tuffin Ferraby Taylor also believes the important thing for industry members is “to remain cautious and calm, with no knee-jerk responses.” In fact, the most common phrase among sustainability and environmental professionals is: keep calm and don’t panic. Even though this optimism is promising, there are a number of environmental issues that still remain and need to be discussed before the UK leaves the EU.

One area that needs to be re-considered is the UK’s role in the Paris Agreement on climate change. As part of the negotiations in December 2015, 195 countries agreed to limit global emissions to “well below 2 deg C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 deg C.” During the Paris conference, each country submitted their own emission reduction targets called ‘intended nationally determined contributions’ (INDCs), to be re-evaluated every 5 years in order to combat human-caused climate change. The EU submitted an INDC on behalf of all its member states, including the UK, promising to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the minimum by 40% by 2030. Importantly, each EU country agreed to tackle this goal in their own way, with the UK committing to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050, as part of the 2008 Climate Change Act. Yet, the passing of the Brexit referendum means that the EU will now need to resubmit its target as part of the Paris treaty, with the UK needing to recommit to or set its own target.

However, there is hope that the UK’s substantial carbon emissions commitment will remain. In fact, The UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change just approved a new carbon budget to cover emissions in the years 2028-2032 , set at 1.73 billion metric tons of CO2. This is the fifth budget to be approved, with each one placing a stricter restriction on the total amount of greenhouse gases the UK can emit over a five-year period. The budget is seen by the sustainability community as very ambitious, since the UK’s government will now need to come up with new policies and strategies to implement and fund the budget. But the commitment itself is reassuring, especially considering its timing in regards to the Brexit decision. Perhaps what the UK needs to realize right now is that “sustainability has to be part of a recovery strategy” in the words of John Alker, UK Green Building Council, who believes the UK’s focus should be on the green industry’s ability to bring about “reduced costs [and] added value” and to resurge the UK’s economy and bring job creation and innovation. Though the future is uncertain, it is crucial now more than ever that the UK takes a stand to fight climate change. The UK has an opportunity at this juncture to both increase its reputation and encourage other nations of the world to promote sustainability and develop their own green building and green business initiatives and policies. It is time for the UK to act like a green leader--let’s hope they’re up for the challenge.

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