The policy impact of Brexit

7th July 2016

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  • EU ,
  • Northern Ireland ,
  • Scotland


Dave Reed

The referendum result raises significant questions for businesses, professionals and the public on environmental protection policy.

In the lead-up to the referendum, IEMA members were overwhelmingly of the view that being a member of the EU was good for business and good for the environment (see below). Many were concerned that environment and climate policy risked being watered down if the vote was to leave. Environment and sustainability professionals will now look to the future with a sense of uncertainty.

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 establishing the future direction, the government must develop progressive policies for the UK to transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient and sustainable economy, which delivers significant social value over the long-term. It must seize the opportunity to accelerate the transformational change needed to meet long-term sustainability challenges and provide a much-needed boost to UK jobs and productivity.

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 recommendation from the independent Committee on Climate Change for a 57% emissions reduction, giving a clear and positive signal of its long-term environmental commitment.

IEMA is committed to providing leadership and support to ensure that environment and sustainability are placed at the heart of decision-making and that policies are in place to develop a sustainable economy for the future.

Members reveal top 10 views on the EU

Ahead of the EU referendum, IEMA members offered their views on the implications of EU membership for the environment and sustainability

  1. The overwhelming majority of members believed the UK had benefited from EU environment and climate policy and that membership of the EU had been positive for UK businesses.
  2. Some 82% said operating within the EU had provided a policy landscape that was more stable and therefore potentially more effective for both businesses and the environment over the medium to long term.
  3. Most IEMA members (78%) believed the UK had been influential in the development of EU environment and climate policy (78%), while 82% believed that being part of a bloc of 28 countries had given the UK more international clout and the ability to exert greater global influence on environmental outcomes.
  4. The vast majority (93%) believed that efforts to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity in the UK were best addressed within (80%) or aligned to (13%) EU policy frameworks.
  5. Members were concerned about the way environmental issues could be addressed as part of infrastructure decision-making after the UK’s departure from the EU, with two-thirds fearing the way environmental issues are taken into account in the future could be reduced or removed altogether.
  6. The majority of environment and sustainability professionals (81%) said they believed European laws and regulations had been important in providing them with a framework to deliver environmental protection and environmental improvements.
  7. Leaving the EU will lower the level of legal protection for wildlife and habitats, according to 60% of IEMA members polled.
  8. Of those involved in environmental impact assessment (EIA), 80% said the EIA Directive had enhanced the way environmental issues are factored into development consent decisions for major infrastructure projects.
  9. Some 88% of members said an EU-wide policy approach was needed to address air pollution.
  10. Two-thirds of members said they believe waste and recycling performance will worsen after the UK leaves the EU, and 71% of respondents said Brexit would reduce business collaboration towards a circular resource economy.

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