Brexit: UK votes to leave EU, fears grow for climate ambition
Brexit: UK votes to leave EU, fears grow for climate ambition

Brexit: UK votes to leave EU, fears grow for climate ambition

Britain’s departure from the EU will force broad changes to the bloc’s energy and climate policies, and remove a crucial ally for Central Europeans — but it will also give London far more freedom to pursue nuclear projects.

The vote was too close to call ahead of the polls opening yesterday morning, but the final count saw 52 per cent of the electorate vote to leave (17,410,742 people), compared to 48 per cent who voted to remain (16,141,241 people).

The result was met with shock and disappointment by members of the green economy, many of whom have spent months campaigning for the UK to remain a member of the trading bloc. Green Party MEP Caroline Lucas told BBC News the outcome was an “absolutely devastating result”.

The decision has prompted a sharp fall in the value of sterling, taking it to a level not seen since 1985. Meanwhile the FTSE 100 tumbled 530 points – 8.4 per cent – within the first few minutes of trading.

The Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney sought to calm the markets. In a statement he said the Bank has engaged in “extensive contingency planning” to ensure the economy’s stability, but warned of continued economic volatility as the negotiation process unfolds.

Addressing the nation this morning, Prime Minister David Cameron said he would remain in his post for the next three months before stepping down. While Cameron said his government would still pursue the legislative agenda for this year set out in the Queen’s speech this month, his resignation adds an additional layer of uncertainty to the green policy agenda in the coming months.

The result brings to a close months of increasingly fractious campaigning for both camps. Green groups have been almost unanimous in their support for the UK to remain a member of the EU, arguing the trading bloc has played a crucial role in delivering key environmental and wildlife protections, and raising international ambition to tackle climate change.

The UK now faces the prospect of unpicking decades of environmental legislation as it untangles itself from Brussels. Experts have suggested the renegotiation process could take at least two years – prompting fears the prolonged uncertainty could cause a hiatus in renewable investment in the UK from large European firms.

Policy officials at the Department of Energy and Climate Change will now also need to start drawing up a national climate plan for submission to the UN, as the UK’s originally submission was made under the EU umbrella.

A number of prominent Leave campaigners have maintained the UK will be able to strengthen environmental protection and green policies in the wake of a Brexit. “In the UK the most significant recent environmental policies were all local initiatives, not driven by the EU,” Michael Liebreich, founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, wrote in the Guardian earlier this month. “It was the UK which unilaterally decided to phase out coal-fired power entirely by 2025. And it was the UK which unilaterally decided to create the Pitcairn marine reserve, the largest single marine protected area in the world.”

Meanwhile farming minister George Eustice has said the UK could develop a more flexible approach to environmental protection once free of “spirit-crushing” Brussels directives. “If we had more flexibility, we could focus our scientists’ energies on coming up with new, interesting ways to protect the environment, rather than just producing voluminous documents from Brussels,” he told the Guardian in May.

Although large swathes of the green economy will be bitterly disappointed by today’s result, many will be keen for the government to regroup as quickly as possible in the face of a wave of policy decision deadlines. Over the coming months expected announcements include a decision on the fifth carbon budget, confirmation on the strategy for the coal phase-out, a final investment decision on the Hinkley Point power plant, and a new plan to accelerate the rollout of low-carbon heat and transport.


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    One comment

    1. With any luck things will cool down enough for the world to come to its senses.

      CO2 is the greatest blessing we humans could ever receive.

      AGW is a fraud and a lie!

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