Sustainability professionals rue ignorance of green issues in EU debates

With just two weeks to go before Britain's crucial European Union (EU) referendum, a new survey has revealed that an overwhelming majority of sustainability professionals believe voters have insufficient information to take environment and sustainability issues into account when they cast their vote.

The vast majority (88%) of respondents said that the EU policy approach is needed to complement and support national level policies in addressing air pollution

The vast majority (88%) of respondents said that the EU policy approach is needed to complement and support national level policies in addressing air pollution

The poll, conducted over the past week by the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA), reveals that 86% of 1200 sustainability professionals believe that issues surrounding the environment and sustainability have not received the right level of focus in the debate, while 87% thought that environment should feature more prominently in the time left before the referendum.

Martin Baxter, IEMA’s Chief Policy Advisor said: “The decision on whether the UK remains or leaves the EU is important in terms of environmental protection. Whatever the outcome of the ballot, it is essential that voters have sufficient information to be able to factor these issues into deciding how they cast their vote.”

The survey also tested views on how the circular economy, air quality and Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of CHemicals (REACH) would be affected should the UK vote to leave Europe.

For the UK to transition to a circular resource economy, 71% of respondents who expressed a view believe that opportunities for business collaboration to transition to more circular resource economy modes of operation would be reduced if the UK leaves the EU. In terms of the air quality issue, 88% of respondents said that the EU policy approach is needed to complement and support national level policies in addressing air pollution.

‘No argument’

The poll paints a similar picture to that of the edie readers’ poll - the vast majority of which have revealed they will be voting to keep Britain in the EU when the Referendum takes place on 23 June, with almost three-quarters voting in support of Britain's position as a Member State

That readers' poll - included within our recent ‘how the green economy will vote’ article (1 March) - has revealed that 74% of 469 respondents (and counting) would be voting to remain in the EU, with just 19% saying they will vote for Brexit, and 7% undecided. (Scroll down to cast your own vote).

Last week, leading green groups including World Wildlife Fund (WWF), RSPB and Friends of the Earth (FoE) outlined the environmental benefits of the UK remaining in the EU, stating that "there is no argument to be had" when taking into consideration the positive impact that Britain's membership has had on its nature and environment.

‘Stronger, better, cleaner’

In an announcement earlier this week, FoE ramped up efforts to try and convince voters that the UK had achieved more working with fellow European countries as a member of the EU.

FoE campaigner Sam Lowe said: “From climate change, to air pollution, to the destruction of the natural world – this generation faces huge challenges that cannot be dealt with by one country alone. Which is why the environment must be at the heart of the debate about our European future.

“Membership of the EU has been good for the UK environment; leading to cleaner beaches, water and air, and the protection of some of our most beloved and iconic nature sites.

"The choice that we make on the 23 June will shape the world for the next generation. We are stronger, better, cleaner and greener in.”

Brexit: What YOU have to say…

edie readers have been quizzed on their stance on Britain's EU membership, with the overwhelming majority of sustainability professionals and green groups agreeing that remaining in the EU is crucial for our transition to a low-carbon future.

Cast your own vote and let us know your thoughts about this in the comments section below.

George Ogleby


air quality | Circular economy | eu referendum | green policy


Green policy
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