By coincidence I happened to be in London on a visit at the time of the BREXIT referendum and the result – one that was a shock for many British people living in the capital city. In the past week since the vote, the implications for the environment and in particular the challenge on climate change have been commented on by environmental groups and by various commentators. The general view on these matters is one of concern about what will happen in the coming years.
How some newspapers view the environmental impact of Brexit
With a few hours of voting remaining I emerged from London underground train station to see ominously dark skies, with torrential rain and fairly frequent flashes of lightening. ‘One of a few ‘remain’ canvassers sheltering at the entrance from the rain approached me but I quickly informed her that unfortunately I didn’t have a vote.
Later that night, I switched off the TV after being reassured on hearing that Nigel Farage of UKIP had conceded that ‘Remain’ would shade it. Apparently he “unconceded” later. Switching on the TV the next morning caused me to do a ‘double take’. Unbelievably, the banner across the TV screen ‘BBC forecasts Leave to Win’. While life in London continued as normal during the morning, none of the people I met indicated any welcome for the result. Some I felt did not seem comfortable about talking about it. Others commented on the fall of the value of the pound overnight and expressed varying degrees of disappointment. One person said, “we just have to live with it now and make the best of it”. On the ferry home on Saturday I was sitting near the ‘Bureau de Change’ – the people who were changing their Sterling to Euro were the ones who were complaining.
While the insular looking Brexit supporters see the result as a success for Britain the view from those who take a more global perspective is the opposite. The Environmental Pillar in Ireland claimed that Nigel Farage “wants to scrap pollution limits on power stations [in the UK]” and that Prime Minister hopeful Boris Johnson, who “is a climate change skeptic … may attempt to dismantle the UK’s interior legislation that commits them to making deep cuts in carbon emissions.”
All this would indicate that any chance that Britain might give leadership on saving future generations from climate chaos seems to be fading. On other elements many environmentalists feel that environmental protection driven by EU legislation has been beneficial. These include cleaning up sewage from the UK’s beaches, banning pesticides that harm bees, tackling acid rain, and the almost 50% of household waste that is now recycled is as a result of EU targets. They also believe that a Britain outside the EU will not have the same level of Government protection for biodiversity, habitats, water quality etc.
Apart from the shock of the result the other abiding memory of the BREXIT campaign period for many people was the killing of the MP Jo Cox. Jo was an unbelievably dedicated MP, campaigner. She has previously worked as a Development Worker. The radio interview given by her husband Brendan following her death conveyed the amazing commitment she has to people who were most need, be it in her constituency or in war torn parts of the world. Jo did not just talk the talk – she walked the walk. She worked overseas on the front line with refugees and others in need of emergency help. Jo understood not only the challenges that vulnerable people face on this planet – she also appreciated that many forms wildlife on our planet are also at risk, as evidenced by the photo. The world has lost a wonderful person. Let’s hope many people will be inspired to carry on and intensify the campaigns and practical activities that she was involved in.
Jo Cox holding an ‘Earth Hour’ World Wildlife Fund board which read: I’m supporting a low carbon future to protect our wildlife and countryside.
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