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Post-Brexit Britain: Greener on the other side?
Syntegra Energy Consulting

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Post-Brexit Britain: Greener on the other side?

So, after months of waiting, the trigger has finally been pulled and Article 50 invoked…the race to leave the EU is well and truly underway but, apart from even more waiting, what can we expect from the two year ‘divorce proceedings’ and the final deal? Just how green will the grass be on the other side?

Much has been spoken about the Great Repeal Bill – more commonly known now as the ‘cut and paste bill’ – importing EU legislation into UK law.

But it is also clear that some elements are likely to be kicked into the long, less ‘green’ grass and environmental issues going on a back burner could set the climate change challenge back years if new standards and targets have to be renegotiated with a UK-only slant.

As dear as they are to our hearts here at Syntegra – and among our clients seeking improved energy efficiency and low carbon building solutions – sustainability issues are unlikely to take centre stage during the next two years of negotiations when trade deals and immigration numbers top the agenda.

But that is no reason for us to take our foot off the proverbial gas as we must all continue to champion the cause of climate change and international efforts to recue carbon emissions and seek innovative ways to safeguard our planet for future generations.

An estimated 75 per cent of our environmental laws have ties to the EU so it is in everyone’s interest to keep an eye on developments on that front.

We heard last week that countries are already struggling to achieve – or even actively pursue – their Paris climate goals, the actions agreed by EU states to meet a pledge of a 40 per cent cut in carbon emissions by 2030.

If we are not answerable to the EU after 2019, who will hold our authorities to account over our role in this joint action? (We currently lie fifth in the table of nations’ progress towards the treaty vision.)

Our Government, after all, vowed to leave the environment in a better state than it inherited so it has its work cut out, particularly if it loses access to EU research funding pots and international projects, much harder to pursue as a sovereign nation, we suggest.

Rest assured the Syntegra team of experts will keep providing the same high level of sustainability assessments helping our clients achieve the best possible emissions performance from their projects.

Will we, as a country, continue to participate in the Emissions Trading Scheme which encourages environmentally-friendly building and trading and is the world’s biggest emissions ‘cap and trade’ scheme operating across 30 countries? Expect some changes and a weakened UK influence on the whole emissions agenda. But still, we repeat, the cause is there to be championed.

While the UK has signed up to EU laws governing air quality, we have struggled to match standards and levels of harmful pollutants, a contributory factor in tens of thousands of early deaths every year, remain high. There needs to be a continuous push for enforcement in this area – regardless of who is behind the creation of laws.

Although we are an island (and, many argue, will feel more cut off than ever from mainland Europe after our ties are severed two years from now) when lines of immigrants are pictured to highlight the contentious issue of freedom of movement of people within the EU and the merits of various trade deals are debated around Brussels tables, few people’s attention turns to water in a post-Brexit Britain.

However, the Water Framework Directive and Urban Waste Water Directive are key pieces of EU legislation concerning the industry here. It is to be hoped they are not diluted in any watering down of European influence over UK utilities. Whatever the outcome, we will continue to provide clients with our water audit service, checking water consumption in your property portfolio with the core objectives of reducing consumption, eliminating wastage, improving operational behaviours and ultimately reducing costs.

We could probably spend the next two years focusing solely on the environmental impact of tearing up any EU legislation and leaving the powerful umbrella that has done much to protect the planet and what it might take to replicate – and improve upon it –  when we really do ‘go it alone’.

Given that’s not going to happen, it’s up to us to continue to drive change, find innovative ways to keep the green agenda to the fore and build the most sustainable Britain we can.

As we embark on this journey into the great unknown, it’s important to keep the message from ClientEarth chief executive James Thornton emblazoned across everything we do: ‘The UK must get the best deal from the EU because a poor Brexit deal would be catastrophic for the environment’.

It’s vital we make the grass – and everything else – greener on the other side when we go.

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