The United Kingdom went to the polls on Thursday to vote on whether to leave or remain in the European Union, with 72% of the country turning out to vote, and in the end, 51.9% of voters made it clear — the UK will leave the EU.
We are less than 24 hours into the news cycle following the results, but already the repercussions are being made known.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, despite widespread calls for him to remain as PM, has announced he will step down in 3 months. Cameron was a fierce Remain proponent, and in announcing he would step down by October said that he believed “fresh leadership” was needed for the country as they move forward.
In September of 2014, Scotland, one of four countries that make up the United Kingdom, voted in their own independence referendum as to whether to remain or leave the Union. The “Remains” won, but following the UK vote to leave the European Union, it is now highly likely Scotland will again vote on independence with the aim to remain in the European Union. Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said that it was “highly likely” Scotland would again vote on an independence referendum, saying it was “democratically unacceptable” that Scotland would be forced to leave the EU against its own wishes. Scotland voted 62% to 38% in the UK referendum vote, a clear majority compared to the equivocating result for the UK as a whole.
The UK’s environmental awareness in future infrastructure projects is likely to take a serious hit now that the UK plans to leave the EU. In a report released late in May, the UK members of the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment revealed their concern for the way that environmental issues will be addressed, or even acknowledged, if the UK were to exit from the EU.
Professionals in the UK’s energy efficiency sector made clear their fears of a Brexit earlier this month, in a report which also highlighted the possibility energy prices might increase if the Brits were to exit the EU.
The moment the first votes came in suggesting that the UK would end up leaving the EU, the British Pound (GBP) plummeted more than 8% before stabilising to stand only 2.5% lower than when the day began. Nevertheless, this does not help much, considering that the GBP has now fallen to levels not seen since 1985.
According to BusinessGreen, the price of carbon allowances for 2017 fell 15% in the wake of referendum results, dropping to €4.88 at 12.30pm GMT, according to London auction platform ICE Futures Europe.
In response to the referendum, a number of environmental and renewable energy groups have called for solidarity and clarity as the UK now moves forward.
Matthew Spencer, director of Green Alliance:
“The nation is divided, and our environment is one of the few things left which we have in common. Britain will now have to create new national laws and stronger public institutions to fill the gaping holes that will be left as we jettison strong EU environmental agreements.
“The public did not vote for a race to the bottom, they will expect standards of environmental protection to be at least as strong in the UK as they are in France and Germany. We now need a plan from government to achieve that.”
Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit:
“Leaving the EU is likely to put an upwards pressure on energy bills, partly due to the direct financial costs of Brexit and also the impact of reduced investor confidence. So an immediate challenge for the Government following this vote will be to prevent bills rising.
“Affordability and security of supply have been enhanced by our increasing gas and electricity connections with the EU. A choice for the government now is whether it wants to continue expanding those connections and hence the benefits to hard-working British families, or to shut up shop.
“On climate change there has been speculation that an independent UK would scrap measures to tackle the problem. These measures are mostly enshrined in British law, however, and it seems likely that the strong cross-party majority in favour of reducing emissions in both Houses of Parliament would seek to defend them.”
Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth’s CEO:
“The referendum may be over but many of the difficult debates are only just beginning.
“The environment must be at the heart of our negotiations with Europe and how we create a positive future for our country. We cannot let the UK return to the days of ‘the dirty man of Europe’. Protections for our birds and wildlife, our beaches and rivers, must not be sacrificed in the name of cutting away so-called EU ‘red tape’.
“The environment was rarely mentioned during the referendum but it must now move up the political agenda. With urgent issues like climate change, air pollution and destruction of the natural world already impacting this generation, not just the next, we don’t have time for the environment to take a back seat through years of negotiations.”
Dr Richard Dixon, Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland:
“The vote to leave the EU is a huge challenge to decades of progress on improving the environment and tackling climate change. Many of the politicians backing the leave vote are climate sceptics and against renewable energy, and much of the ‘red tape’ they complain about are the laws that have given us cleaner air and water, and forced companies to reduce pollution. In the 1980s our environmental record had us known as the ‘dirty man of Europe.’ The fight is on to stop us slipping back to the bad old days.
“One of the biggest reasons for being in the EU has been to work together to tackle climate change. Being out of the EU will mean the UK will have to negotiate its own climate targets with the UN and the people in charge are very unlikely to share Scotland’s high ambition.
“The current UK government has been desperately unenthusiastic about renewable energy, holding back offshore wind and solar developments in Scotland. EU targets helped to push them a bit but any new UK government is likely to be even more of a blockage to unlocking Scotland’s huge renewable energy potential.
“There will likely be a huge fight at the UK level to keep laws which protect nature, prevent pollution and set standards for a clean environment. Most of EU environmental law is devolved to the Scottish Parliament so Scotland can decide to keep these protections in place but we will still feel the impact of deep cuts to budgets for the environment. As a society we lose the protection of being able to appeal to European courts if either the UK or Scottish governments are failing to protect the environment.”
James Thornton, CEO ClientEarth:
“Voters have made their views known on Britain’s future out of Europe. We respect that democratic decision of course, but it leaves me shocked, disappointed and extremely concerned about the future of environmental protections in the UK.
“Today, therefore, I challenge politicians of all parties to affirm their commitment to strong environmental laws and to guarantee united action on climate change, despite our upcoming exit from the EU.”
Stephanie Pfeifer, CEO of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change
“The outcome of the referendum does not alter the climate challenge nor diminish the unequivocal signal set by the Paris Agreement to enable a smooth transition to a low carbon economy.
“The UK government must both sustain and enhance its leadership on the climate agenda at an international level. It should also move swiftly to adopt a robust domestic 5th Carbon Budget in line with the advice of the Committee on Climate Change and before the legal deadline at the end of June.”