A year in #NatureAlert & hope for our living planet

Recounting a year full of political heartbreaks, environmental and humanitarian threats, hopes and action, is quite a challenging task. As Europe’s economy shows little political hope for sustainable recovery, one would reasonably expect a rise in environmental pressures, widespread concern and fear for the future, even anger at the lack of leadership for a restart towards a stronger and better Europe. 

The ease with which demagogic rhetoric gains political ground is proof of the void left by the traditional political parties and their inability to address the unprecedented challenges of our times. Europe’s inefficient response to the humanitarian refugee crisis, the continued austerity recipe to the never-ending economic crisis, and the EU’s reluctance to uphold and honour its own global leadership in forward-looking green policies are indeed factors that contribute to public discontent.


Time to work together for our post-Brexit EU

By Theodota Nantsou*

The forecasts about the repercussions of Britain’s Brexit vote on economy, society and environment are gloomy. As the world waits to see what happens next, it is now important for the EU to analyse and understand what went wrong and how this can be fixed.

Europe was evidently not prepared for this dramatic turn of events. The British majority’s vote for exit from the EU came as an unexpected shock. Indeed, contrary to the assertions of the pro-Brexit campaign, the UK did not really depend on the European Union for a large share of its policies. So why would British citizens really bother to vote for an exit?

Following a massively catastrophic first half of the 20th century, the dream of a tranquil and prosperous Europe seemed to come to fruition in the early 1970s, when the key economic colossi had all signed the agreement to become an economic community of states pursuing free movement of people, capital, goods and services. As the community further expanded and included countries of smaller economic clout and different historic backgrounds, the challenge of better integration resulted in a robust acquis of common environmental and resource efficiency policies and laws and progressive international advocacy for strong agreements on climate change, thus rightly elevating the European Union to the pedestal of a global green champion.


Brexit and its impact on climate & energy policy

by Michalis Prodromou*

The outcome of the British referendum on the country’s membership in the EU will certainly have an impact on British, European and international low carbon policies; the question is how severe this will be.

Will the Brexit affect the ratification process of the Paris climate agreement, achieved only a few months ago? The agreement “would require recalibration” in case of an EU-exit outcome of the referendum said Christiana Figueres, only a few hours before the results were announced. However, she appeared far more reassuring in front of a London business summit audience this week that “the UK will maintain its leadership on climate change”, adding that cooperation in this area can add to the stability and continuity of EU-UK relationships. It remains to be seen whether the Tory party leader will stand for climate change skepticism or ambitious GHG emissions’ curbing efforts.

Cooling towers letting out steam and smoke at a coal-fired power station near Pontefract in Yorkshire, UK.

 © Edward Parker / WWF

WWF responds to EU referendum result

On the 23rd June, the British People decided their future. WWF-UK campaigned for the environment to be integral to the debate and asked voters to consider the implications their choice would have for nature. 

WWF-UK is concerned about the risks and uncertainties for the environment of the UK moving outside the EU.  There will now be many years of transition, so we need to do all we can to ensure that regulations and actions are in place for the environment, to promote a sustainable future including addressing climate change.  These need to be as good or even better than those currently in force within the EU.

The UK remains signed up to the Sustainable Development Goals and to the Paris climate agreement, and we have opportunities through the Government’s own proposed plans for nature and for food and farming to make the case for the protection and improvement of our environment.

Responding to the result of the referendum on EU membership, WWF-UK CEO David Nussbaum said:

“Environmental challenges don’t stop at borders and many require international solutions.  Leaving the European Union brings risks and uncertainties for our wildlife and wild places, but with the right policies the UK could continue to be a global force for the protection of nature. As an immediate step we should retain the environmental protections that have delivered cleaner air and beaches, helped preserve habitats and cut carbon emissions – and build on them to reverse the environmental decline we are experiencing.  

“Environmental considerations are integral to the long-term needs of our economy and society.  The Government’s proposed 25 year plans for Food and Farming and for Nature will now be measures of how seriously Ministers are about taking care of our countryside.  Integrating the needs of farmers and consumers with wider environmental priorities would reassure those who worry that nature will be low on the Government’s priority list.”

WWF will continue to work with partners in Europe and around the world to protect the air we breathe, the beaches we visit, the wildlife we cherish and the countryside we love.  And we’ll keep campaigning for global solutions to climate change.  Our vision is for a world with a future where people and nature thrive.

Read more: UK's conservation groups assess environmental impact of BrexitStatement by WWF UK 



Brexit brings risks for UK environment and leaves EU weaker

Responding to the result of the British referendum on EU membership, Geneviève Pons, Director of WWF European Policy Office said:

We much regret this decision by the British public to leave the European Union, as this brings risks and uncertainties for the UK’s environment, and also risks weakening the EU’s position in tackling international environmental and climate challenges.

All evidence shows that EU membership has brought many environmental benefits for citizens and nature in the UK and across Europe, resulting in cleaner air and water, helping preserve habitats and species, accelerating the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy and cutting carbon emissions. It is now important that the UK government commits to retaining the high environmental standards set by EU legislation. Neither the environmental decline we are experiencing nor climate change stop at borders, and they need to be tackled urgently, whether as a member of the EU or not.

We also regret losing the UK as a strong and effective advocate for ambitious climate action at EU level, and call on all other Member States to step up their efforts in delivering on the Paris Agreement.

Read more: UK's conservation groups assess environmental impact of BrexitStatement by WWF EUStatement by WWF UK


Brexit? UK's conservation groups assess environmental impact

As the Referendum of 23 June on the future of Britain's EU membership is nearing, Britain's leadeing conservation NGOs informed the political dialogue with a much needed environmental impact assessment of the pros and cons of each vote. On March 8, WWF UK, RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts issued the report "The potential policy and environmental consequences for the UK of a departure from the European Union".

The report has concluded that "on balance, Britain’s membership of the EU has delivered benefits for our environment – such as reduced air and water pollution, reduced carbon emissions, increased recycling, clean beaches and protected areas for rare species and habitats - that would be hard to replicate in the event of the UK leaving. The report also goes on to highlight the risks and uncertainty associated with likely exit scenarios."


CrisisWatch Newsletter issue 41

Your news on how the economic crisis affects Europe's environment
Issue 41 / March - April 2016
Read your news online:



All eyes are turned on the viability and the future of the European project and EU member states coming even closer together. As Britain, one of the first states to join the European Community back in 1973, is set to decide on the future of its EU membership and the fears of Brexit are now more real than ever, hard evidence on the serious impacts of a possible EU-UK divorce are compelling for both sides. In Britain most of the discussions on the June 26th Referendum have focused on politically burning issues, like immigration, trade and the economy. Yet, the Brexit environmental impact assessment published by The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and WWF UK reveals that Britain's EU membership has delivered considerable environmental benefits that need to be brought to the political and public debate.

Deeply immersed into an existential quest dominated by the ongoing economic downturn, the fear of Brexit and the refugee crisis, Europe’s leaders downplay the environmental factor and fail to see the
green writing of the wall. Although however the continuing pressures by industry and governments to deregulate crucial green laws and policies in the name of rapid economic growth have pushed the EU to an environmentally lethargic state, evidence that environmental regulations do not harm economies is compelling: a recent report by the OECD concludes that environmental policies and laws do not harm export competitiveness. This conclusion is consistent with the findings of previous OECD studies, which prove that a stringent regulatory framework for the protection of the environment has no negative impact on productivity – instead, they can work together.

As Tony Long, then Director of WWF EU, remarked at an October 2014 conference in Athens, “…politicians are now in the unenviable position of having only a bag of growth indicators to sell to their increasingly skeptical and knowledgeable electorates who want and need to be presented with other indicators of well-being and progress”. It is high time that Europeans stand up and make their voice heard in demand for ecologically and socially sustainable ways out of the crisis.


This newsletter’s news:

  • OECD: Strict green laws do not harm export economies
  • Environmental NGOs on the refugee crisis in Greece
  • UK needs a greener Budget to face high cost of environmental loss
  • Brexit? UK's conservation groups assess environmental impact
  • EU Court of Justice rejects right to free pollution 
  • Policy highlights
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Photos and graphics © WWF or used with permission. Text available under a Creative Commons licence.

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