Report: UK can ‘exercise global leadership’ on climate change in reformed EU

The environmental consequences of leaving the EU is the subject of a new report from a neutral and independent UK-EU think tank which highlights three possible green policy scenarios the upcoming referendum could lead to.

The EU Referendum and the UK Environment: An Expert Review‘ was published yesterday (11 April) by The UK in a Changing Europe. The group – which claims to have no official stance on the EU referendum – spent much of the 60,000 word report highlighting how EU had been a driving factor in the UK’s environmental policy implementation.


Drawing evidence from more than 700 publications, the report outlines that, while leaving the EU would create “greater parliamentary sovereignty” which would allow the UK to dictate its spending and budget, a vote to leave would put the UK’s Climate Change Act and subsequent carbon budgets in danger.

On the option to remain within the EU, the report states: “The UK government will also continue to enjoy the opportunity to set higher environmental standards than the minimum required by EU legislation. The UK will also maintain the opportunity to work through the EU’s international policies to exercise global leadership, as it has done on topics such as climate change.”

The report offers three scenarios which could arise from the EU referendum on 23 June. A vote to remain would see the UK operate in a “reformed EU”, while a “Free Trade Option” would see the UK leave the EU and negotiate trade deals with the Union. The “Norwegian option” is also available – which would see the UK become a member of the European Economic Area.

The report warns that choosing to leave the EU could lead to MPs avoiding “compliance pressures” from the European Union Court of Justice over areas including water and air quality, where the UK is already behind European requirements.

The overarching theme from the report suggests that EU membership has had a positive impact on regulation and policy in regards to green economy and the environment. The report also notes the impact that membership has had on infrastructure and investment into renewables.

Commenting on the review, Friends of the Earth campaigner Sam Lowe said: “This expert review adds further evidence to the argument that Friends of the Earth has been making for months: The UK’s environment is best served working together with our European partners.

“From climate change, to air pollution, to destruction of the natural world – this generation faces huge challenges which we cannot deal with alone. This is why the environment must be at the heart of the debate about our European future.”

Hot topic

Ministers are already using the report to emphasis their voting decisions to either remain of leave. Defra minister Rory Stewart, who has joined the likes of David Cameron, Amber Rudd and Elizabeth Truss in the ‘remain’ camp, released a statement highlighting the “clear benefits” of remaining in the EU.

“There are clear benefits of EU membership for our natural environment, both at home and abroad. The UK has led the way in driving up environmental standards across Europe, from tackling harmful chemicals that damage the ozone layer, to cracking down on the black-market ivory trade,” Stewart said.

As the referendum date slowly rolls into view, more and more publications are appearing highlighting the risks and factors for either remaining or leaving the EU. Legal experts have warned that the renewable energy industry faces a “huge paradox” in the event of Brexit, while Amber Rudd has claimed that voting to leave would cause an “electric shock” for energy costs.

edie readers have also weighed in on the topic, with more than 70% now claiming to support Britain’s exsting position as a Member State. With two months to go until the referendum, you can still have your say on the matter by voting below.

<p>Matt Mace</p>

Matt Mace

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