Brexit has been a hot topic of discussion for the last couple of years, but with a final result due shortly, it’s really ramping up. While there’s a hot debate about what is going to be right for the country, depending on the side you are on, the one thing that has us really concerned is the impact that this will have on the environment.
We’re already in such an uneasy time, with the UN’s latest report warning that we need to act now in order to avoid irreversible damage; and reports that we are the first generation to know the damage that has been caused, and the last to make a difference. So with Brexit looming, what will be the impact if we do leave the European Union?
With the European Union leading the way with sustainable policies, and 80% of our environmental laws coming from the EU, we are at risk of losing many strong environmental policies that are already in place, unless the UK Government decides to make changes in their favour.
So how is leaving the EU likely to affect each sector?
The current EU targets have set all countries within the European Union to dramatically reduce their use of greenhouse gases and increase the amount of energy that comes from renewable sources by 2020. At the moment the UK are a little behind on these targets and still have some way to go, with the possibility of risking a fine worth millions, if the target hasn’t been reached by 2020. There has been talk that if the UK do end up leaving the EU, that the government plan on scrapping these targets, allowing the UK to take a slower approach.
The European Union are looking to implement a more circular economy type model, to create a more sustainable cycle, allowing recycled materials to be reused again within a business. In order to achieve this, each country has been given strict targets of recycling, with the UK given a 50% target for 2020, which they are likely to increase to 65% for 2030, and the government is not happy about this. This indicates that, should we leave the EU, recycling targets will not be high up on the list of priorities, and without a definitive target and no risk of a fine, the government may become complacent when it comes to recycling.
The EU provides funding for many industries, to create innovative change, from the science to medical industry, and if we leave we will lose these opportunities for funding. Horizon EU is set to invest €100bn, which will be available to members of the EU from 2021-2027, to help find new ways to address issues that are related to health, energy and food, and sustainability within these areas are likely to be key. We will miss out on this investment along with any future funding opportunities.
Organic farmers are expected to be hit the hardest when it comes to Brexit. With an estimated 65% of UK agricultural exports heading to the EU every year, without a deal, organic farmers will only be allowed to export to the EU once they have been certified by a UK body that has been approved by Brussels. Around £2.2bn worth of organic produce was exported to the EU in 2017, so if no deal has been agreed for organic farmers, this could be disastrous for organic businesses.
The government has not made it clear how future environmental policies will look if we do leave the EU, and it can go one of two ways. However, at a time when government is struggling to make a basic deal with the EU, it is likely that sustainability will be pushed back. It’s also likely that consumers will have less money to spend, so businesses may have less money to spend on green initiatives. However, there could be a surge in support for British businesses, and since trading with the EU may be more costly, businesses may switch to more UK based suppliers.
Whichever way it goes on March 29th, we hope that the UK government can keep sustainability in the forefront of their minds, for the sake of the future of our planet. If you would like to keep up-to-date on the latest with Brexit, and how this will affect your green brand, follow us on Twitter and Instagram.