Brexit costs to be counted in health & climate impacts


The UK public will head to the polls next week, in a “climate referendum” that could see it turn its back on decades of progress on environmental issues, including climate change and air pollution. With UK ministers at the forefront of lobbying efforts in Brussels against stronger air pollution measures, a new poll of environment professionals warns an exit from Europe could see the UK fail to tackle its own air pollution crisis – already responsible for 40,000 early deaths a year. It follows a host of similar calls from influential voices from politics, business and civil society warning an exit from Europe could have on a wide range of environmental issues. As the European Commission and member states move forward to ratify the Paris Agreement, and as its citizens call for strong action to limit warming below the agreed 1.5DegC limit, these voices warn by leaving Europe, the UK would also undermine its ability to effectively tackle climate change, and further hit it’s already struggling renewables industry.


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Key Quotes

EU Referendum

  • “The EU is absolutely the best place for European countries to design policies together to collectively meet our energy needs whilst phasing out fossil fuels. In contrast to the UK government, the EU has recognised the need to transform our energy system and the millions of green jobs that can be created in doing so. To meet our commitments under the Paris climate agreement we need to work together with our European neighbours to set renewables and energy savings targets and agree ways of meeting them. Those arguing for us to leave the EU say they want control, well we won’t get control of climate change by walking away.” – Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London
  • “Environment and sustainability professionals are overwhelmingly of the view that the UK has benefited from EU environment and climate policy, and that this has also been positive for UK business. The vast majority feel that the EU policy approach is needed to complement and support national level policies in addressing air pollution. Operating within the EU provides a policy landscape that is more stable and therefore potentially more effective over the medium to longer term. From an environmental perspective, the decision on whether the UK leaves or remains in the EU is crucial.” – Martin Baxter, IEMA’s chief policy advisor
  • “It’s not just Brexit that’s bonkers and ill-considered, it appears that Boris [Johnson] is just as bonkers for wanting us to leave the EEA [European Economic Area]. Quitting the single market would leave the UK without air and water quality laws. Without air quality laws, people will die.” – James Thornton, chief executive of ClientEarth
  • “June 23rd is a climate referendum. Leaving the EU could wreck our chances of playing a part in the fight against this existential threat – and hand the country to people who don’t even believe climate change is happening. But by staying as a member of the EU we can build on the progress already made in Paris earlier this year and continue making strides towards a fossil-free future.” – Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas
  • “No-one from the Leave campaign has yet been able to reassure us that we wouldn’t need to start again from scratch were we to leave the EU. What will happen to nature in the meantime?” – RSPB, chief executive Mike Clarke
  • “A vote for “Brexit” would significantly damage the UK’s ability to manage climate risks to UK citizens, business and global interests.  The UK has been a leading advocate for ambitious EU climate policy since 1997. Through its world-class diplomatic networks the UK has greatly multiplied the impact of European climate policy internationally. Without the UK, the balance of forces inside the EU would shift towards lower climate ambition; driven by Poland’s increased importance.” – Nick Mabey, chief executive at E3G
  • “[If you are outside of the EU] then you’re not in the room making the decisions in the same way and we’re not one of 27 influencers. “We are probably the largest influencer in terms of setting out the plan and delivering on the energy market. So we can’t help shape it – shape it in the best way for the UK consumer and UK businesses. That would be a loss because you would be going into an area of uncertainty.” – Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
  • “So, would leaving the EU shield us from TTIP and its associated issues? No. Our own government is very much a driver of the push for deregulation in Europe, and left to its own devices and tasked with replacing (or not) UK regulation formerly made at the EU level it would likely settle on standards far lower than anything TTIP could dredge up. Indeed, this is something many of the outers explicitly pray Brexit will achieve.” – Sam Lowe, Campaigner for trade, finance and land issues, Friends of the Earth

EU Ratification

  • “EU ratification can be a long and difficult process, however it is likely that it will be concluded in 2017. The accelerated ratification timeline sends a signal of commitment to meeting the Paris Agreement. Next to the swift ratification, the EU needs to make sure its policies are coherent with what was agreed in Paris and increase its climate targets in time, before the next political moment in 2018.” – Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network Europe
  • “Speed is essential in the fight against climate change so early ratification of the Paris Agreement is crucial. Yet ratification without increasing EU policy ambition to reflect the Agreement’s content is like trying to climb a mountain in flip flops. It puts Europe at risk of suffering even more from the impacts of climate change in future. Implementing the Paris Agreement means ensuring its goals – keeping global temperature rise well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to keep it under 1.5°C – are reflected in stronger, more ambitious EU climate and energy policy. Yet so far, the Commission has failed to provide the tools needed to begin to scale the mountain.” – Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate and Energy at WWF European Policy Office
  • “We welcome the European Commission’s step closer to ratifying the Paris climate agreement, but today’s proposal is meaningless without real climate action in the EU. This means higher ambition on the EU’s largest climate instrument, the Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) , which will address emissions from a variety of sectors including agriculture, transport, buildings and waste management. EU member states should not be granted exemptions through backdoor negotiations, as seems currently to be the case.” – Roland Joebstl, Climate and Energy Policy Officer for the European Environmental Bureau (EEB)

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