24 June 2016 | Jamie Harris
A number of environmental associations are calling for the industry to come together to ensure that the green agenda continues to be a priority in the wake of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union (EU).
Julie Hirigoyen, CEO of the UK Green Building Council (UK GBC), said: “Both economic and political uncertainty will have some people asking whether the green agenda needs to be de-prioritised while business goes into firefighting mode. This must and need not happen.
“The incentives remain strong for business to address climate change and other urgent sustainability challenges. Arguably now more than ever we need to minimise future risk, reduce costs, add value for clients, generate new commercial opportunities and ensure we have the best people working as productively as possible. A sustainable built environment is fundamental to these objectives.”
The UK GBC said it would explore more deeply the commercial drivers for sustainability, while encouraging an unprecedented collaboration between progressive businesses, green groups and other trade bodies.
“We will take the argument to government that a low-carbon, sustainable built environment is good for UK plc, and that this requires a clear and consistent policy landscape – in or out of the EU.”
Melanie Kendall-Reid, compliance director at Carbon 2018, said the UK now needed to decide if it is to remain a part of the European Economic Area (EEA) or to cut all ties with Europe.
She said that a total withdrawal from the EU and the EEA could bring an “erosion of environmental policy”, citing non-EU members of the EEA such as Norway and Iceland as examples of how countries can continue to follow EU climate policy.
Kendall-Reid said: “European environmental policies provide business opportunities to UK firms to become market leaders in the development of new technologies. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) suggested that green business accounted for 8 per cent of GDP, a third of UK growth in 2011-2012 and could add a further £20 billion to the UK economy.”
Steve Lee, CEO of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), said: “As far as this institution is concerned, there has never been a more important time for our industry to work together and to use our body of knowledge and expertise to help influence and deliver a new environmental vision for our country.
“There is no hiding from the fact that EU membership has been a strong positive force for the quality of our environment and the associated benefits for our health, wellbeing, jobs, skills, growth and general sustainability.”