IEMA members see benefit of the EU

12th May 2016

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Business & Industry ,
  • Public sector ,
  • Central government


Sarah Wormald

Brexit would damage businesses and likely lead to a less stable policy environment, according to the latest results from a members' survey on green issues around the EU referendum.

The UK leaving the EU would have a detrimental impact on the environment and sustainability profession, according to almost three quarters of members of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment.

Some 70% also feel a vote in favour of leaving the EU on 23 June would have a negative effect on their business or organisation. Just 20% feel a vote to leave would have no impact, and only 10% say it would be beneficial.

The findings are the latest to be released from IEMA’s member survey on the potential impacts of the EU referendum. On Tuesday, it issued results showing members want the government to swiftly adopt the fifth carbon budget, for the years 2028–32, and not delay a decision for fear of aggravating pro-Brexit backbenchers just before the vote.

Some 1,569 people responded to the invitation-only survey, which is about 10% of IEMA’s membership. It was conducted from 5–9 May.

IEMA did not ask members how they intend to vote. It is an independent body that chooses to look at issues objectively and focus on the impact of politics rather than side with any party or campaign, a spokesperson said. However, the inference from the results is clear – most members are pro-EU, at least on environmental and sustainability issues.

Some 82% of respondents agreed with the statement: ‘the EU provides a policy landscape that is more stable and therefore potentially more effective for both businesses and the environment over the medium to long-term.’ And 78% said the UK is influential in the development of that policy landscape – countering Brexit arguments that it has little input. A large majority of respondents (82%) also felt that working within the EU gives the UK more influence over international environmental agreements.

However, responses to some questions show many members believe the UK could achieve some things at least as well by itself. For example, 57% said the UK is more likely to meet its long-term climate targets as part of the EU. But 43% said it would have at least an equal chance of meeting them after a Brexit. A similar split is evident when looking at the EU renewables directive, which requires 15% of UK energy to come from renewable sources by 2020. Only 45% said that renewables target is consistent with meeting wider climate objectives in a cost-effective way. Some 40% said UK implementation of the renewables target could be made more cost-effective, while 15% said the target imposes unnecessary costs the UK could do without.

The survey was anonymous, but talking to IEMA members suggests their views on the environment will influence the way they vote. ‘It’s extremely difficult unpicking the information from all sides,” said Colleen Theron, director of consultancy CLT envirolaw. ‘But I think I’ll end up voting to stay in, mostly due to the uncertainty that’d happen if we leave, and that’s especially true on the environment side where there’s four decades of policy to unpick.

‘Some things about the EU aren’t great – I have a lot of doubts about the bureaucracy – and certainly the people I speak to on a professional level all have that mixed view. But they all think if we leave it’ll be worse.’

Independent consultant Phil Cumming, who is a member of IEMA’s strategic advisory council, agreed. ‘We’re in a situation in the UK where we live in four-to-five year political windows but a lot of the most important issues, especially on sustainability, transcend a government. The EU gives us more long-term certainty and you don’t get that with this government – just look at all the u-turns on energy policy. We’re already in contravention of air and water quality [directives] and I think if we go out we’ll be heading back to the days when we had that nickname, the dirty man of Europe.’

‘When I talk to Brexiters, I always ask, “Is the situation really that bad?”’ he added. ‘Nobody is saying the EU is perfect, but for me, I can’t say it’s broken enough [to leave].’

The IEMA results echo those of another survey. In April, a Society of the Environment and ENDS Report survey found that 77% of environmental professionals would vote to stay in, and only 14% to leave.

Further results of IEMA’s survey will be released in coming weeks, with the next concerning issues including impact assessment, land use and the natural environment.


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

Weather damage insurance claims hit record high

Weather-related damage to homes and businesses saw insurance claims hit a record high in the UK last year following a succession of storms.

18th April 2024

Read more

The Scottish government has today conceded that its goal to reduce carbon emissions by 75% by 2030 is now “out of reach” following analysis by the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

18th April 2024

Read more

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has issued a statement clarifying that no changes have been made to its stance on offsetting scope 3 emissions following a backlash.

16th April 2024

Read more

While there is no silver bullet for tackling climate change and social injustice, there is one controversial solution: the abolition of the super-rich. Chris Seekings explains more

4th April 2024

Read more

One of the world’s most influential management thinkers, Andrew Winston sees many reasons for hope as pessimism looms large in sustainability. Huw Morris reports

4th April 2024

Read more

Alex Veitch from the British Chambers of Commerce and IEMA’s Ben Goodwin discuss with Chris Seekings how to unlock the potential of UK businesses

4th April 2024

Read more

Regulatory gaps between the EU and UK are beginning to appear, warns Neil Howe in this edition’s environmental legislation round-up

4th April 2024

Read more

Five of the latest books on the environment and sustainability

3rd April 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close