What does Brexit mean for the environment?

In the Brexit debate so far, lots of attention has been focused on the economy and immigration. These are certainly two of the most obvious implications of Brexit. However what concerns me is the lack of focus on what is one of the most challenging and powerful issues that faces our generation, the environment.

The effect of leaving the EU on the environment is perhaps a little more subtle than, say, the effect on the UK’s immigration policy. But it is no less important.

Some of the significant breakthroughs surrounding the global environment have come about from the EU being a forum for the cooperation of many different countries. Working as a collective group to tackle global issues such as climate change mitigation and deforestation this results in much stronger progress, especially if other countries feel increased pressure to cooperate with global schemes.

Policies such as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and Trade Scheme for Emissions [3] can be seen only to be successful due to the cooperation of lots of production heavy countries. Post Brexit, the UK needs to continue its cooperation with other countries and ensure strong relations with European countries are maintained. We need to ensure that the progress that has been made as an indisputable result of EU policy, such as the significant reduction of sulphur oxide and other harmful pollutant emissions, is not reversed.

Instead, we need to make sure that Brexit is rather used to strengthen the UK’s environmental policies.

How we do so will largely depend upon the type of Brexit the UK pursues. If we remain in the European Economic area whilst not retaining all of the environmental regulation enforced by the EU, the UK will still have to adhere to some standards. A “hard Brexit” where the UK is completely outside of the economic zone would mean that environmental laws could become subject to change by our national Parliament. This could lead to huge repercussions for environmental issues both domestically, such as the protection of UK countryside, and global climate change issues as well.

My main point on Brexit and the environment is that as the Brexit negotiations develop there needs to be a strong focus on ensuring that environmental protection is brought to the forefront of some of these discussions. Climate change and environmental degradation are defining issues of our generation and we need to ensure that progress surrounding these issues is not halted as collateral damage of Brexit. Instead, we need to call on decision makers to outline a clear strategy for how post Brexit the UK government and other politicians will protect the environment.

Erin Burns

Erin Burns

Erin is a contributor to Common Vision's Brexit Watch bureau of millennial commentators, researchers and analysts. She is from Sunderland, currently living in London and studying economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She works as a student ambassador part time and is a youth ambassador for the One Campaign.
Erin Burns

@Erinburns74

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