We are a few short days away from the biggest decision we will collectively take for a generation, maybe longer. The decision to remain in, or leave the EU will affect our lives, those of our children and undoubtedly, those beyond, in various ways. At Carbon Smart, we have looked hard at what the debate might mean for climate action, and we firmly, to a person, support remaining in the EU.
Climate action and business
The UK is (currently) home to the headquarters of many global businesses, home to the European headquarters of many more international businesses. These businesses face a myriad of regulatory requirements, not least in respective of environmental action, across all the countries they operate and trade in.
The Leave campaign would have us believe that there is an advantage in setting our own rules, in making things different here, but most businesses, certainly when it comes to environmental action, want a level playing field. They want to be subject to the same rules as their competitors. Better still, they prefer the same rules for the many different parts of their organisations. The headache of complying with one rule in the UK, another in the EU, yet another in the US etc. means focus would move to ticking all the boxes, not taking action that could really make a difference.
When it comes to the age old arguments about the EU imposing standards on UK businesses for products (think straight bananas), a single set of standards across a 500 million person market is an extraordinary achievement. Any business looking at selling cars, medicine, telecoms, electrical goods, household goods, chemical products, safety equipment, paper products – the list goes on – benefits from one set of standards. If we left the EU, would we really make a new set of standards just for us? Or simply be signing up to follow the EU’s standards but with no ability to shape or lead them?
It is not, however, just consistency that the EU gives us. The EU has played a leading role over the years in environmental action from air pollution, to ozone, to emissions trading and energy efficiency – as part of the EU we have led the charge, been able to persuade China, India, Brazil, even latterly the US (under the current president at least) that environmental commitments and action are vital. The weight of the EU’s developed economies coming to the table as a block cannot be overestimated. It is very hard to believe that we could exert the same influence on these issues as a standalone country – one small country amongst nearly 200 others. As part of the EU we were able to lead 195 countries to achieve a historic agreement on climate change in Paris last year. On our own, would our voice have made a real difference in those discussions? As a member of the EU, we were able to lead the debate, not just follow it.
Employing great people
To continue to make the difference we do at Carbon Smart, we need great people; fired up about environmental and social issues, bright, hardworking and committed. We have many employees from the UK, but we also have had and have employees from the EU. It has been simple and quick to employ these people and to benefit from the richness that they bring. The UK leads the world in climate change services, we do so with contributions from people all over the EU. Whether it is a point based system, or something more akin to the current system we have outside the EU, anything that makes it harder to bring the right people into solving climate change challenges would be a step backwards.
Doing business in Europe
But maybe the biggest argument for staying in the EU is one that reaches well beyond the sustainability sector. At Carbon Smart we help businesses all over the world. We sell services in many markets, as do thousands of other UK service based businesses. We can do so in the EU as simply as we can in the UK. The single market makes it uniquely easy to do business on the other side of the Channel. What Leave has simply failed to address is how they think we can ensure that the UK’s massive services sector can continue to access the EU without signing up to the rules of the single market and the payments that go with it. If we left, we would be following, not leading, with no voice in the room.
Remaining in the EU, working to make it better as a large and growing economy is leading, not following. Working together with our other European allies to secure new, innovative and coordinated action on climate change is leading, not following. Ensuring the very best people come and work here in the UK, providing services across the single market is leading, not following. As leaders in sustainability, we at Carbon Smart would encourage you to vote to lead, to vote to REMAIN.