By Chris Lang
I’m guessing, but you probably don’t need me to tell you that more than half of the population the United Kingdom has just voted to leave the European Union. More than half of the population that voted, that is – 28% didn’t vote.
I’m shocked, and struggling to think about anything else today, so this post is a series of links to articles trying to make sense of what happened in the UK. For what it’s worth I would have voted to remain – if I could have done so. Since I’ve been living outside the UK for more than 15 years I couldn’t vote. I think the debate in the UK was appalling. There are good arguments for leaving the EU and good arguments for remaining. But instead of a debate, we got sound bites, memes, and lies. The debate degenerated to taking back control versus remain’s scare tactics.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments with views on what Brexit means – for climate change and for everything else.
Being in the EU is better than the alternative
Writing in in The Guardian, George Monbiot pointed out some of the things that are wrong with the EU:
The European Union is a festering cesspool of undue influence and opaque lobbying. Prompted at first by the tobacco industry, the European commission is slowly dismantling, through what it calls its “better regulation agenda”, many of the hard-won laws that protect our health, working conditions and wildlife. Once they are torn down, corporate power will be locked in place through the TTIP – the transatlantic trade and investment partnership – it is negotiating with the United States.
But, Monbiot points out, the alternative to the EU is far worse:
By comparison with the British system, however, this noxious sewer is a crystal spring. Every stream of corporate effluent with which the EU poisons political life has a more malodorous counterpart in the UK. The new Deregulation Act, a meta-law of astonishing scope, scarcely known and scarcely debated, insists that all regulators must now “have regard to the desirability of promoting economic growth”. Rare wildlife, wheelchair ramps, speed limits, children’s lungs: all must establish their contribution to GDP. What else, after all, are they for?
Britain has become a power base for a legalised financial mafia that strips the assets of healthy companies, turns the nation’s housing into a roulette table, launders money for drug cartels and terrorists, then stashes its gains beyond the reach of police and tax inspectors.
So how did this happen?
I think Larry Elliot sums up very well how a disturbingly large proportion of the British were persuaded to vote leave;
The result speaks volumes about the state of modern Britain. For the better off, a vote to remain was the obvious thing to do. For the less well-off, a vote to leave was their chance to protest about badly paid jobs, zero-hour contracts, bullying employers, and a sense that they had been forgotten.
These economic problems are deep-seated and of long-standing. Most of them have little to do with Europe. But the referendum has given millions of unhappy people a chance to protest. This is a country divided by wealth, geography and class.
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party, said, “Many communities are fed up with cuts, fed up with economic dislocation and feel very angry at the way they’ve been betrayed and marginalised by successive governments in very poor areas of the country.”
Of course immigration and xenophobia also played a role. Nigel Farage and his UK Independence Party fanned the flames. But I don’t believe that the 37% of the UK population that voted leave is racist.
As Gary Younge put it, in The Guardian:
Not everyone, or even most, of the people who voted leave were driven by racism. But the leave campaign imbued racists with a confidence they have not enjoyed for many decades and poured arsenic into the water supply of our national conversation.
Brexit is bad news for the environment
Craig Bennett, CEO of Friends of the Earth, said the Brexit vote as a “red alert” for the environment.
The impact of the Brexit on the Pound was dramatic:
“I am sure anyone contemplating a supply chain investment for renewables will not have made a decision in last couple of months.”
Ed King ironically notes on Climate Home, an economic crisis isn’t all bad news:
A British vote to leave the EU offers potentially good news in the fight against climate change: the resulting economic slump could lead to a fall in greenhouse gas emissions.
The carbon price on the EU Emissions Trading System fell by 17% to €4.70 on concerns that the UK is entering a recession and that having left the EU, the UK may also decide to leave the ETS.
Brexit and climate change
Farage could end up holding the balance of power after the next election. He admits that he’s clueless when it comes to climate change. “I haven’t got a clue whether climate change is being driven by carbon-dioxide emissions,” he said last year.
He’s oppposed to wind energy:
I think wind energy is the biggest collective economic insanity I’ve seen in my entire life. I’ve never seen anything more stupid, more illogical, or more irrational.
But UKIP supports fracking. Farage’s UKIP party has listed 100 policies on its website. As well as support for fracking, these include abolishing the Department of Energy and Climate Change and repealing the Climate Change Act 2008. UKIP claims that the Climate Change Act costs £18 billion per year. UKIP also proposes cutting £9 billion from the foreign aid budget.
Boris Johnson is the person most likely to take over the Conservative Party after its leader David Cameron resigned this morning. (The Conservative Party is split: Cameron campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU, Johnson campaigned to leave.)
Johnson is a climate skeptic. Johnson chooses to ignore the 97% of climate scientists who agree that humans are causing climate change. Instead, he phones up his friend Piers Corbyn who tells him that the activity on the surface of the sun is responsible for climate change.
The fact that Corbyn’s theory has not been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal doesn’t worry Johnson in the slightest.
Just to add to the fun, Piers Corbyn is Jeremy Corbyn’s brother. Here are a couple of screenshots from Piers Corbyn’s website, Weather Action:
Full disclosure: REDD-Monitor has in the past received funding from the European Commission. Click here for all of REDD-Monitor’s funding sources.