Will Brexit hurt the environment?

Other | Thursday 19th January 2017 | Harry

Brexit has been the topic on everybody’s lips for the last six months.

The pound has hit record lows, huge uncertainty surrounds the future of the UK, and social cracks across a divided nation are now clear. However, the impact of Brexit may not only cause ripples across the economy for years to come, but also across the landscape of climate change. With 2016 recently being announced as the warmest year ever recorded, we at Guestlist decided to look into how exactly planet Earth is likely to fare with Brexit; is it just as doom-and-gloom as the general forecast for the UK?

Well, to start, it certainly helps to know some key facts and changes surrounding the issue of global warming. First, the climate agreement of Paris 2015; this was a historic agreement that saw over 195 countries worldwide agreeing to limit climate change to 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures. This was widely regarded as a monumental moment in climate policy history. Not only did the talk lead to an agreement to prevent climate change reaching the agreed dangerous level of climate change, a 2°C rise in global temperature, they even agreed to take half a degree off that. Brexit, however, has thrown a spanner in the works.

With ‘Article 50’, the article necessary for Brexit to actually happen, not likely be triggered for at least another year, there is likely to be little immediate change in terms of climate change. However, how the UK will interact in policy conventions globally such as the Paris agreement in coming years, will now likely follow a different path. As a non-member of the EU, the UK will be allowed to set its own contribution to climate agreements. This may initially seem like a good thing: more freedom for the UK is a good thing, right?

Unfortunately, no. Most likely it will be quite the opposite, especially in terms of climate change. Already under the short reign of Theresa May as Prime Minister, we have seen huge negative changes in terms of the UK’s impact on global warming, including the closure of the Department for Energy and Climate Change. Now, outside the EU, it is very likely that May will no longer keep up the UK’s side of the deal in the historic Paris agreement. Basically, Brexit has given the government, one that has already showed itself as ‘anti-green’, the opportunity to tackle climate change in anyway it sees fit. This is likely not good for planet Earth. 

Overall, with carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere already likely being the highest they have been for the last 200 million years (you read that right), now more than ever, clear and binding climate policies need to be adopted in order to prevent us reaching the dangerous level of climate change. It appears this limit will soon be surpassed, bringing further climatic change with it; Brexit has likely worsened this further, with current policy already simply not meeting the mark.

By Harry Demetriou