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Historic UK Vote Casts Uncertainty on Future of Climate Policy

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The UK voted 52 percent to 48 percent to leave the European Union in a historic referendum last night. Prime Minister David Cameron is resigning in the wake of the vote and markets reacted immediately, as the pound fell to its lowest level against the dollar in 30 years.

The UK voted 52 percent to 48 percent to leave the European Union in a historic referendum last night. Photo source: iStock

Many climate and energy experts, including Christiana Figures, had been outspoken about the potential danger for EU and UK climate policy if the UK were to leave.

Without the UK involved, it is unlikely that the EU would revise up its current 40 percent emissions reduction target, experts say. The "leave" vote and change in government also raises uncertainty about domestic policies. Craig Bennett, head of Friends of the Earth, said the leave vote was a “red alert” for the environment.

Greens/European Free Alliance co-president Philippe Lamberts said in response to the UK vote:

“There can be no doubt that this vote will have a dramatic impact across Europe and the globe. The UK vote is an extreme disappointment but it cannot be the beginning of a domino effect within the EU. The response of European governments must now be to work together to deliver a decisive response, which can shore up confidence in the EU.

“While there were clearly various motivations behind those who voted to leave the EU, there can be no doubt that some of the disillusionment with the European project is shared by many citizens beyond the UK. From the outset, the European project aimed at ensuring lasting peace through the extension of freedom, democracy and shared prosperity. Reconnecting with that ambition is what is needed to address the many legitimate reasons behind this public dissatisfaction and ensure the EU can win back the support of citizens.

“We remain committed to this project and believe we need to highlight the major positive benefits the EU has delivered and the potential it has to allow us to respond to today’s global challenges. In a globalised world, there is no sovereignty if not shared.”

Greens/European Free Alliance co-president Rebecca Harms added:

"We seriously regret the outcome of the referendum. The Greens have always strongly believed that the EU provides by far the best platform for delivering peace and stability and confronting the global challenges we face. In the course of the divisive campaign, there was a concerted effort to delegitimize the EU. However, this vote is also the consequence of the widespread uncertainty and mistrust of the EU, which exists not only in the UK but also in other parts of the EU.

“This vote is a wake-up call for the EU. All pro-European forces need to be self-critical and seek answers to why there is a growing gap to citizens in Europe. We cannot continue with business-as-usual. This means improving how the EU works and, in particular, strengthening democracy and transparency. Without prejudging the outcome of any change, there is also a need to strengthen the involvement of democratic institutions, both the European and national parliaments, in the EU process."

For a deeper dive:

News: Politico ProGristNew Statesman, Reuters, Wall Street Journal

Commentary: The Guardian, Damian Carrington column; Climate Home, Ed King column; Politico, Sara Stefani column; BusinessGreen, James Murray column; Carbon Pulse analysisClimate Home, Robin Webster op-ed

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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