It has been a complicated, fast-paced, and often frankly confusing month in British politics. There was barely time to take stock of the implications of the vote to leave the European Union on the 23rd June, before we were confronted with leadership battles, resignations, re-shuffles, and re-re-shuffles in a matter of days. Sometimes it was hard to keep up.
In the wake of the referendum result, many in the environmental and science communities are shocked and concerned about the future.
The UK now faces much uncertainty regarding the future of funding for some scientific research, as well as the freedom of movement for researchers and students. Meanwhile, many of the laws and initiatives on which we have relied for several decades to protect our environment have their roots in EU legislation, and there is no guarantee that such protections will be retained once obligations to implement these Directives cease.
Politicians are always keen to talk about how science and innovation can drive productivity and economic growth, but as environmental professionals will recognise, the importance of science to our prosperity and wellbeing is by no means restricted to economics.
As the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union draws closer, we decided to investigate the views of IAQM members on this issue. Dr Claire Holman, Chair of the IAQM, explores the results of this survey, and the implications of this vote for air quality in the UK.
In September 2015 the UK Government responded to the Natural Capital Committee’s third State of Natural Capital Report. The committee recommended that the government develop a 25 year plan to deliver on their aim to be “the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than it inherited”.
The day after George Osborne published the 2015 Autumn Statement, an announcement to the London Stock Exchange declared something unexpected: the £1bn ring-fenced capital budget for a Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) competition would no longer be available. This funding was to demonstrate CCS technology commercially on a power plant in the UK. The deadline for bids was less than six weeks away when the announcement was made.
The environmental movement as we know it today developed in the 1960s and 70s, as awareness grew of the damage pollution could cause, and scientists began to recognise the growing pressure human populations and activities were exerting on natural resources. Influential publications such as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, and the Club of Rome’s 1972 report, The Limits to Growth, characterised these changes in thinking.
Despite it being their legal requirement, UK businesses are failing to undertake energy audits under the new ESOS scheme. Compliance will save them money and work towards fulfilling their corporate sustainability goals, so why are so few undertaking audits? And is the administrator of the scheme, the Environment Agency, culpable?
Remarkably, MPs received more letters about bees from their constituents in August this year than any other issue – evidence that long-held concerns from scientists about the importance of ecosystem services are gaining ground in the public consciousness. Ecosystem services are no longer the ‘next big thing’ but are of immediate concern and importance to society. Freshwater ecosystem services are highly relevant to many of society’s current challenges, such as flooding, security of water supply, and climate resilience.
August each year brings exam results for thousands of A-Level and GCSE students around the country. Our congratulations go out to all of those who have received their results, and with UCAS reporting record numbers of university places being accepted (since the cap on student numbers has been removed), including across the sciences, we hope that these successes will translate into thriving environmental science courses across the country.