Millennials call for continued environmental leadership post-Brexit

Hannah Lesbirel reports on the key takeaways from IEMA Futures’ ‘Brexit: What does it mean for the environment?’ event

The IEMA Futures network met for a stimulating discussion about Brexit’s potential impacts on the environment. Chaired by IEMA chief policy advisor Martin Baxter, delegates were given possible post-Brexit headlines to discuss with their stakeholder groups: public, businesses, environmental pressure groups, environmental professionals, and science and research. 

‘Wildcards’ allowed for meetings to be called between stakeholders, making for a more dynamic discussion. As relationships developed and deals unfolded, it became clear that stakeholders will do all they can to benefit from each scenario. 

Delegates felt that environment and sustainability issues have been largely overshadowed by the politically charged nature of Brexit, and that there is a risk that the government will not deliver on promises to uphold, or better, the broad spectrum of environmental commitments currently in place. This feeling of unease was strengthened by the prospect of potential trade deals, which, some have speculated, would require the UK to relax environmental standards. With the UK being a true leader in European environmental standards, concern was high regarding the retraction of the UK, both on a national and international scale. With environmental issues being of a transboundary nature, is this a time when collaboration is key for success?

However, what was clear was the potential for a post-Brexit UK to seize the opportunities granted by being an ‘independent’ nation. A post-Brexit UK, whatever form it may take, has the potential to drive its own sustainability and environmental agenda; it could go even further than current EU legislation and be truly world leading in terms of carbon reduction, renewable energy, a more circular economy, and waste handling. It is up to us, as champions for sustainability and custodians for the built and natural environment, to make government, industry and the public aware of this potential and the connection everybody has to the environment – whether they realise it or not. 


Hannah Lesbirel is a graduate waste consultant at Mott MacDonald and chair of IEMA Futures


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