UK Votes Out: Sustainability Sector Reacts To Brexit

Brexit

The UK woke up this morning to the news that Britain is set to leave the European Union, following the results of yesterday’s referendum.

With 52% of voters opting to leave, the UK will now have to plan just how it will set about untangling itself from the EU.

The only formal way out is to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which will set a two-year period for negotiating new trade arrangements.

Steve Lee, CIWM – “Stepping out of the EU brings financial, policy, legal and performance uncertainty which may well threaten a slow-down or reversal of the improvements we have enjoyed in recent years”

Among reports of a slump in the pound, Scotland renewing calls for independence and the threat of Britain losing its AAA rating, likely to get lost in the noise is how this might affect the environment and resources sectors.

The results mean that many vital European environmental protections will cease to apply. This includes the UK’s obligation to recycle 50% of its waste by 2020, and any further targets set by the Commission’s Circular Economy Package.

During the campaign period leading up to the referendum it became clear that the overall consensus was that if the UK were to leave the EU, environment and resource policy would suffer. An opinion poll taken at this year’s Resourcing the Future Conference in London revealed 81% of delegates wanted to remain in the EU.

LIVE: FoE – “Dirty Man Of Europe”

Reacting to the news, Friends of the Earth says that the environment must be at the heart of our exit negotiations with Europe and how we plan our future as a country. The environmental campaign group warned that with the referendum over, the difficult debates are now just beginning.

Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth’s CEO, says: “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.”

REA – Investor Certainty

The Renewable Energy Association’s Dr Nina Skorupska CBE says the result raise serious questions for investor certainty, energy security and much needed investment in the UK energy infrastructure.

“Energy policy must be a priority for the Government now,” she says, “with industry needing reassurance and ministerial clarity on priorities.”

The Aldersgate Group says environmental and low carbon economy issues were largely overlooked during the EU referendum campaign. Yet, both within and outside the EU, the UK has often taken a leading position on tackling environmental issues such as climate change.

Nick Molho, executive director of the Aldersgate Group says: “With serious environmental issues facing the world economy and with low carbon investment rapidly growing globally, it is in the UK’s economic and environmental interest to engage positively in international negotiations on climate change and other environmental issues and support the growth of its low carbon economy through national policy.

“Showing its commitment to the Climate Change Act by adopting the fifth carbon budget and a robust carbon plan to deliver it and making rapid progress on a 25 year plan to improve the state of the UK’s natural environment must now be essential priorities for the government.”

IEMA – Progressive Policies

Martin Baxter, IEMA’s chief policy advisor says that this raises significant questions for businesses, professionals and the wider public on environmental protection policy.

“In establishing the UK’s future direction, Government must develop progressive policies for the UK to transition to a low carbon, resource efficient and sustainable economy which delivers real social value over the long-term.

“It must seize the opportunity to accelerate the transformational change needed to meet long-term sustainability challenges and provide a much-needed boost to UK jobs and productivity.

“An immediate test of the Government’s commitment to environment and sustainability lies in the adoption of the UK’s Fifth Carbon Budget. We urge the Government to adopt the independent Committee on Climate Change recommendation for a 57% emissions reduction, giving a clear and positive signal of its long-term environmental commitment.”

ESA – “Waste At the Bottom Of The In-Tray”

The Environmental Services Association’s (ESA) executive director Jacob Hayler said: “The referendum result will extend and intensify the uncertainty around both our industry and the UK more generally. The danger now is that the waste and recycling sector is placed at the bottom of the Government’s in-tray. It is therefore vital for us to make the case for the circular economy within the UK and to highlight the advantages of a strong and competitive resource efficient economy.

“Once the dust settles it will be absolutely critical for investment in our industry that the Government acts quickly to set out the terms of a UK exit and what it means for the waste sector. Regardless of our membership of the EU, there is huge scope for the waste and recycling sector to do things better and for the UK to improve its resource efficiency.

“The public’s vote has been cast and, while there may be threats, we must turn it into an opportunity and press the Government for the long-term framework that the waste and recycling industry now needs more than ever.”

CIWM – Working Together

Steve Lee, Chief Executive Officer of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, said: “The decision for the UK to leave the EU is not what most CIWM Members, or many environment sector professionals, have said they wanted.

“While it was conspicuously absent from the respective referendum campaigns, there is no hiding from the fact that EU membership has been a strong positive force for the quality of our environment and the associated benefits for our health, well being, jobs, skills, growth and general sustainability.

“As far as this Institution is concerned, there has never been a more important time for our industry to work together and to use our body of knowledge and expertise to help influence and deliver a new environmental vision for our country”

“Stepping out of the EU brings financial, policy, legal and performance uncertainty which may well threaten a slow-down or reversal of the improvements we have enjoyed in recent years.

“As sustainable resources and waste management professionals, as an Institution, and as an industry we must now work together to build on what has been achieved to date. This will require leadership, determination and an industry ready to work with Governments – of whatever flavour – to protect what we have and to drive for further improvement. More than ever now, we need forward looking strategies across the UK to support investment and performance in this sector.

“As far as this Institution is concerned, there has never been a more important time for our industry to work together and to use our body of knowledge and expertise to help influence and deliver a new environmental vision for our country.”

APSE – Local Government

APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence), which works with over 300 local councils throughout the UK, says the new will have a fundamental impact on local government.

It says that many local government regulations and functions, whilst set within a UK legislative framework, are also governed by European Union regulations. Whilst many may continue unchanged in the short term, and during the exit negotiations with the EU, local government must be fairly represented within a national public service context.

APSE is calling upon the Government and all political parties to ensure local government services are protected.

Speaking about the referendum results Paul O’Brien APSE Chief Executive, said  “It is not for APSE to judge the outcome of the referendum. The British people have voted for change, however we must not allow the results of the referendum to bring a further assault on local government finances. The ship is only just steadying from years of austerity budgets and now is not the time to crush the progress that local councils are making in bringing about stable local government services.”

ReFood – Food Waste Action

Philip Simpson, commercial director at food recycler ReFood says we should use Brexit as a springboard for introducing a total ban on food waste to landfill in England.

He said: “Free from the shackles of EU red-tape, Defra has a critical role to play in setting such targets and can help Britain to implement waste management laws at a far greater speed – tailored with the country’s needs firmly in mind…

“While there is a long road ahead, the Brexit vote is a huge moment for the UK’s waste management sector. Looking ahead, it’s important that we continue to work towards not only achieving, but exceeding, the sustainability targets originally laid-out by the EU. The sector has a pivotal role to play in Britain’s post-Brexit landscape, and I hope to see us grab this opportunity with both hands.”

RWM Ambassadors – Driving Resource Agenda

Barry Dennis, Chair of the RWM Ambassadors Group says, “We have woken up to a different world and Britain is not the same as it once was… But now is the time to focus on the future and that means, a long road ahead of us with us united!

“We have already seen the effects of this referendum result on the markets and although we expected this volatility, it is still very daunting. It is early days and we will need to see how the UK Government responds. But what we do know already, is that for a stronger and more sustainable future for our sector, we will need to lead strategically and develop solutions as opposed to waiting for steer from existing legislation.

“It will take many years and fierce determination for us to achieve our aspirations for a circular economy, a greener environment and sustainable existence”

“We will not have all the answers in the next few weeks or months. Instead, it will take many years and fierce determination for us to achieve our aspirations for a circular economy, a greener environment and sustainable existence.

As Chair of the RWM Ambassadors Group, I promise you that we will be doing everything in our power to drive forward the resource management agenda. Nelson Mandela once said: ‘When people are determined, they can overcome anything.'”

Resource Association – Clear Signals

Chief executive of the Resources Association, Ray Georgeson, said: “The decision the people have made to leave the European Union will create uncertainties for many industries including our own. We made this clear during the referendum campaign but recognise that the public have made a decision about the UK’s future in the EU.

“We must continue to advocate the power and value of the circular economy and ensure that our concerns about policy uncertainty are addressed. We will be looking for clear signals and reassurances from the Government that they recognise the potential and value of our industries and that they commit to a more resource efficient future, regardless of our future status in Europe.”

R&WUK – Engage With Government

Responding to the outcome of the UK EU referendum today, Resources & Waste UK (R&WUK) has said the sector must now look to engage with government and key stakeholders to ensure a robust future UK policy framework for resources and waste.

“EU legislation has been a key driver behind the UK’s rapid progress on sustainable resource and waste management over the last two decades and the referendum outcome leaves our sector particularly exposed to the financial and policy uncertainty ahead,” says R&WUK chief executive Steve Lee.

“We will initially be calling for an early meeting with government to discuss their plans and explore how the industry can contribute to the task ahead.”

“What isn’t uncertain, however, is the direction of travel; the imperative to move towards greater resource efficiency and security and to develop more circular economic models of resource consumption remains critical to the long term future of the UK.

“Our sector needs to keep its eyes on the prize and realise its potential as an industry that not only underpins sustainable economic growth, jobs and business competitiveness but also protects our environment and contributes to the health and wellbeing of our communities.

“This will be R&W UK’s job in the months to come; to work with all the necessary stakeholders and government to ensure that the policy and investment needs of our industry are recognised and that we have the right framework to deliver the maximum environmental and economic benefit for the UK in the future. We will initially be calling for an early meeting with government to discuss their plans and explore how the industry can contribute to the task ahead.”

UNTHA UK – “No Time To Panic”

UNTHA UK’s Marcus Brew says: “Political persuasion aside we must focus on stability. This is not the time to panic…

“As an industry we deal with change all the time and, whilst this is perhaps one of the biggest to arise in modern British history, we’re definitely equipped to tackle it.

“In truth, the Government’s position on the environment has been pretty insipid to date, to say the least. It is therefore highly unlikely that sustainability-related legislation will be anywhere near a priority in these initial stages of renegotiation. We must therefore capitalise on at least one thing remaining fairly constant for the time being, whilst we all plan for the future.

“There are pioneers in this industry who can – and will – ensure the resource agenda maintains momentum. Both widely known and lesser-recognised brands have developed products, systems and processes that have gradually changed the way we think about ‘waste’. In many instances they’ve done that with little help or influence from a Government level.”

FCC Environment – Positive And Independent Thinking

“At FCC Environment we have maintained a neutral stance in this referendum as we believe the decision was one for the public alone to make. We respect their verdict and are reviewing in detail the potential implications for our sector.

“We need to have positive and independent thinking about the future of the waste management sector that builds on the work done to date.

“We would welcome clarity on the future for waste and recycling law in order for the sector to fully capitalise on its ability to improve the UK’s energy and resource security. In particular, we are calling for greater clarity on future policy direction to help facilitate a more stable investment climate.

“We need to have positive and independent thinking about the future of the waste management sector that builds on the work done to date.”


We’ll be keeping you updated throughout the day with the reactions from the industry.

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