It's time to keep cool. It's time to remain collected. But above all else: it's time to stand up for all of Europe and its environment.
June 25, 2016 | London, UK
IMAGE: SUSTAIN EUROPE
It was a bitterly close election race, with just 51.9% of voters choosing to leave the EU, against 48.1% of the votes. The referendum turnout was 71.7%, signalling the highest turnout in a UK vote since the 1992 general election.
Whilst England and Wales both voted to leave, Scotland and Northern Ireland backed staying, marking a new divide across a nation which promised to be united even in name. The news of the referendum result didn't just shock many in the UK, but also across the EU and the rest of the world.
In the aftermath of the vote, the UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced that he was to step down from his role, as did Britain's European Commissioner, Lord Hill, who both felt that they weren't the right people to steer Britain away from the EU.
Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon went on record to say that she would be seeking "immediate discussions" with the EC to "protect Scotland's place in the EU", and even stated that Scotland could try to veto the UK's exit from the EU. Britain's two major political parties, the Conservative and the Labour parties, have plunged into deep crisis with no immediate end in sight.
Where do we go from here?
It is simply too early to say where we will go from here, particularly as no country has ever invoked Article 50 before. What will follow now is surely lots of debate, both inside the UK and inside the European Union. The answers will come, but we have to give them time. In the meanwhile, it makes no logical sense to get caught up in argument after argument over what is the most likely outcome of something none of us have the ability to predict.
Whether we like it or not, the British people have spoken and the results of the referendum must be respected. It is now a job for the politicians to respect the wishes of the people.
But let us go back for a minute. Sustain Europe is not a speculative title with a political agenda. In fact, we leave the speculation to all the many wonderful political titles already available on the shelf at your nearest newsagents. Similarly, sensational journalism about how things have suddenly changed in a post-Brexit Britain can be found in the dozens of fantastic newspapers and magazines which you'll also be able to find along those same aisles.
For you won't find such sensationalism in Sustain Europe, because what concerns us is a prosperous and sustainable European continent, rather than covering the endless bickering and speculation. We simply wouldn't want to waste your valuable time. And whilst we stand in solidarity with each and every European citizen and hold nothing but respect for the EU and UK's politicians, we would rather concentrate on the things which bring about the most health and happiness to the planet and its people. Namely prosperity, environmental protection, cohesion, and sustainability.
So what of the immediate impact on the economy?
Again, it is too early to say what the financial prospects of Brexit really are at this stage. What we already know is that €1.9 trillion has been wiped off world markets. The British pound has fallen to a 30-year low and the FTSE 100 is in freefall. Furthermore, the credit agency Moody's have already cut the UK's credit outlook from "stable" to "negative".
But this may prove to be a knee-jerk reaction rather than a sign of things to come. UK Business Secretary Sajid Javid will be holding roundtable meetings with business leaders on Tuesday, when he is expected to be reassuring the business sector that a calm approach should be spearheading the financial and business sector's response to the Brexit vote.
For now it seems the best course of action is for everybody to carry on as normal and respond to events as and when they happen, rather than in anticipation of them. We are not saying for a moment that Brexit is not going to change anything, but it is also important to remember that the early bird doesn't always catch the worm. Particularly when the bird in question is completely oblivious to the concept of catching worms.
So to those who say that this will not be business as usual for Europe or that the EU collapse is now irreversible, we say please cut the hysteria. Europe survived two World Wars in the space of 30 years and came out all the stronger. We seriously doubt your crystal ball will be able to confirm the outcome of Euro 2016; let alone the fate of the Euro 27.
The most important challenge facing us today is not our government or our economy, but climate change. Which is why for now, the most proactive and logical course of action would seem to be for us to all engage in active discussion about what Brexit will mean for British and EU environmental efforts, starting with the recent UNFCCC COP21 conference in Paris.
What will Brexit mean for the Paris Agreement?
There can be little doubt that following the UK exit, the Paris Agreement will require recalibration. The UK had submitted its pledges as part of the EU, so the UK will now need to negotiate its own agreement, whilst the EU agreement itself will need to be adjusted accordingly.
What will Brexit mean for UK and EU environmental targets?
There is no hiding from the fact that the European Union was a major driver in terms of shaping the UK's environmental policy.
A lot is going to depend on what sort of relationship the UK will have with the EU following negotiations. European Economic Area (EEA) membership, European Free Trade Association (EFTA) membership, or even a complete cut off from Europe would each carry a different set of implications.
So whether or not the UK will decide to lower, raise or maintain current environmental requirements remains to be seen. But that is an important question which we cannot afford to leave to chance. The current mood seems to be that the UK may have voted to leave the EU, but that does not mean the UK government will be given free reign to completely abandon its plans to create a cleaner and safer environment. Already a number of environmental bodies are calling for the industry to collaborate in order to make sure that an EU exit will not corrode current UK environmental legislation.
As for EU environmental targets, the UK was a founding member of the Green Growth Group of 13 EU nations, and has argued for the EU to increase the 40% cut in GHG emissions by 2030 to 50%. With the UK gone, what chance will the remaining members have of convincing others to decrease their GHG emissions by 2030?
We've said it before and we'll say it again: our vision is of a prosperous and sustainable Europe, be that inside the EU or out. From the Sustain Europe perspective, the only thing the Brexit result means is that our work has now become more important than ever. The same will surely be true of the EU and everybody associated with the green movement.
So we call on all organisations, be them British or European, to work together with us to tackle climate change and make sure that the sustainability agenda will continue to be a top priority for the United Kingdom and for the rest of Europe.
In the meanwhile, let's do everything we can to make sure that cooler heads prevail, and we can start by not getting caught up in the petty arguments that we're going to be increasingly hearing and seeing more of in the coming weeks and months.
Panic is not sustainable. But Europe most certainly still can be, if only we can keep calm, hold fast to our values and put aside our differences. The things that unite us are far greater than the things that divide us. We must work together with all European partners, be them EU, EFTA, British, Russian or EAEU, in order to rise up in the name of mutual economical prosperity and the environmental protection of this beautiful planet we call home.
So it seems only fitting to end this with the words of the late, great Mother Teresa: "Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We only have today. Let us begin."
If you want the real facts about what the UK's exit from the EU will mean for Europe, then please subscribe to Sustain Europe.
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