Brexit and the Environment

By Logan Robin

One of the things which sets Hope For The Future apart from other organisations is its location. Being situated in the heart of Sheffield has enabled HFTF to access large pools of talent at the city’s two large universities - Sheffield Hallam and the University of Sheffield - and forge links with key academics and think tanks, of which there is a large number. One example is SPERI - the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute - which has produced a lot of research on the links between growth and the environment. A further example is Brexit & the Environment whose co-chair, Professor Charlie Burns, is based at the University of Sheffield’s politics department. 

Professor Burns gave her inaugural lecture on Wednesday the 21st of November, titled ‘Can the Awkward Partner be a Green Leader? Brexit and the Future of UK Environmental Policy.’ The lecture dedicated itself to the EU Withdrawal Agreement which had been published just one week earlier. The quick turnaround time from the information being made public to Burns presenting the lecture speaks to her ability to quickly condense huge swaths of information, and this was also in evidence in the way she presented the information. She was kind enough to summarise her answer to the lecture’s title before it even officially started: “yes in principle but probably not!”

Professor Burns began by pointing out that three of the policy areas most impacted by Brexit - environmental, farming, and fisheries policies - fall under the purview of the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs [Defra]. This is further hammered home by the fact that Defra has received £100 million in extra funding, out of a total of £400 million put aside by the treasury to deal with Brexit (including the creation of two new departments: the Department for Exiting the European Union [DexEU], and the Department for Industry and Trade [DIT]). With this money Defra intends to have hired 1,200 new members of staff by March 2019. (Institute for Government). 

Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs 

The focus of the lecture then turned to Defra’s Secretary of State Michael Gove. He has been a far more environmentally active secretary of state than many had expected. Prior to his arrival in post, the Government had pushed many key environmental policies in to the long grass. But within a very short time of his arrival the Government announced a new 25 year action plan. It is highly likely that having a “big beast” politician like Gove is a huge asset to Defra in terms of getting policy moving (where less experienced ministers might succumb to inertia or outside influences), and in terms of fighting for his department’s interests in cabinet so it can get the money it needs and time in parliament to pass its bills. 

However Defra can come unstuck in the detail of policy. Professor Burns pointed out that whilst the action plan gives the impression of phasing out all waste by 2050 (and all plastic waste by 2042) the document often uses qualifying phrases. The pledge is actually to “work towards eliminating all avoidable waste by 2050 and all avoidable plastic waste by end of 2042”. Key words here being “work towards” and “avoidable”. It could be argued most current waste (plastic or otherwise) is not “avoidable” and therefore the pledge is already largely achieved. 

Agriculture Bill 

This slight weakness is detectable in other Defra areas also. For instance, the Agriculture bill is currently on its way through parliament. The purpose of the bill is to replace the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) - the mechanism by which subsidies are given to rural farmers (helping maintain the countryside). The CAP has been heavily criticised over the years for giving money indiscriminately and often to large landowners at the expense of small scale farmers. Replacing the CAP then is one of the major ways Gove has pledge to achieve a “Green Brexit” which will put “environmental policy at the heart of England’s domestic and international priorities.” 

The problem lies in the weakness of language. For instance, the opening of the bill reads: 

The Secretary of State may give financial assistance for or in connection with any of the following purposes—

(a) Managing land or water in a way that protects or improves the environment

(b) Supporting public access to and enjoyment of the countryside, farmland or woodland and better understanding of the environment;

(c) Managing land or water in a way that maintains, restores or enhances cultural heritage or natural heritage;

(d) Mitigating or adapting to climate change;

(e) Preventing, reducing or protecting from environmental hazards;

(f) Protecting or improving the health or welfare of livestock;

(g) Protecting or improving the health of plants

The problem here lies in the word “may”. Indeed it has been suggested by MPs on the public bill committee responsible for line-by-line scrutiny of the legislation that this word should be replaced with “must” to ensure that current and future Defra Secretaries of State continue to pay money towards these worthwhile goals, especially climate change mitigation and adaptation (point d). If the bill passes in its current form there will be no such obligation. 

The Withdrawal Agreement : Back Stops & Governance Gaps 

By this point Professor Burns has set up much of the background of UK environmental governance, so begins looking to the future about what the Withdrawal Agreement could mean for UK environmental policies if it comes in to force. 

The important part of the Withdrawal Agreement is the ‘back stop’ which will come in to force if no long term relationship can be agreed after the end of the transition period, some time between 2020 and 2022. What the agreement and its accompanying political declaration does say is encouraging. Not only has a non-regression clause been included in the agreement, but also specifies that new bodies will need to be created to oversee this, creating accountability. The point of the non-regression clause is to ensure that the UK maintains separate but equal regulations after the end of the transition period, and stop either side undercutting the other or creating a ‘race to the bottom’ on environmental standards. 

Defra has already been reluctant to spell out exactly what this new body might look like, but has done so in response to pressure from NGOs, especially the umbrella organisation Greener UK. The details showed that they had made a body which only covered England, not the entire UK. So - as plans currently stand - if the back stop comes in to force there will be a governance gap where Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland’s situation and obligations vis-á-vis environmental regulation will be entirely unclear, and maybe even unregulated. 

Additionally, it is unclear what will happen if either side improves their environmental standards - as both have pledged to do. If both sides had committed not only to non-regression (i.e. neither side may let its environmental regulations get worse) but also to parity or ‘dynamic alignment’ (i.e. if one side improves its regulations, so must the other) then it could create a “race to the top” instead of a ‘race to the bottom’. ( 

Next Steps 

No one can know at this stage if the Withdrawal Agreement will even be passed by parliament. Burns herself made the point that she may have to come back in a few weeks to give the lecture all over again as the political situation changes. But notwithstanding the possibility of the rejection of the Withdrawal Agreement on 11 December there are some key messages to take away from the research. Brexit will have enormous consequences for environmental governance. Whether or not that will be a good thing depends highly on the political developments of the coming months and years. Defra and its leadership have made a public effort of trying to achieve a “Green Brexit”, but they seem unlikely to deliver without external pressure. Much of this pressure will have to come from parliament and the MPs who sit in it. And those MPs will not create that pressure unless they themselves are being talked to by NGOs and concerned constituents. 

Climate Communications Blog Series

Blog 1: Communicating Climate Change with the Centre-Right

Briony Latter, 8th November 2018

Briony Latter

Briony Latter

This blog series explores different aspects of climate change communication. Talking to people about climate change and trying to engage them with the subject involves more than simply getting your facts straight. It’s really important to think about who your audience is and how you talk to people. In this first post, we share some potential ways to communicate about climate change with people on the centre-right of the political spectrum who tend to hold conservative values such as the importance of family, continuity and cultural heritage.

This graph from Carbon Brief illustrates the political divide on climate change in the UK.

Climate change is an issue often associated with those on the political left, but it’s important to engage people from across the political spectrum. With 315 Conservative MPs currently in the House of Commons, it’s likely that many of you reading this will have a Conservative MP. With climate change scepticism usually higher amongst those on the political right, it can feel like a challenge to discuss the topic if you have different political viewpoints.

Just last week, the government budget was announced by the Chancellor, Philip Hammond. There was no mention of climate change. So how can you talk to your Conservative MP about climate change in a way that will interest them? Climate Outreach, Europe’s leading climate change communicators, have produced a number of resources about how to communicate climate change to those on the centre-right. Their research has identified 11 core centre-right principles that can be used in conversations about climate change.

One of the announcements from the budget was that fuel duty would be frozen, saving car drivers money. One way of talking to them about climate change in relation to this topic could be to discuss the impact of cars on air quality and how this affects children. This links to two of the core centre-right principles identified by Climate Outreach: ‘intergenerational duty’ and ‘the good life’ – “an aspiration to happiness, good health, and wellbeing”. There has been plenty of recent news coverage about air pollution and how this has a negative impact on children, particularly during the school run and whilst outside at school. Framing this in a way that emphasises the impact on children’s health and the responsibility we have for younger generations may be a suitable approach to take with your MP. For further information about air pollution, read our air pollution resource.

Torrential rainfall in South Yorkshire on the 25th June 2007 led to the beck flooding in the afternoon. Photograph by Wendy North.

Torrential rainfall in South Yorkshire on the 25th June 2007 led to the beck flooding in the afternoon. Photograph by Wendy North.

Bright Blue, a think tank for ‘liberal conservatism’ published a response to the budget last Tuesday. In it they state that “the Chancellor was wrong to bring forward tax cuts for higher-paid workers whilst the poorest are still being squeezed”. This is a good example of another key centre-right principle identified by Climate Outreach: 'fairness'. By framing climate change issues in a way that reflects this, you are more likely to connect to your MP’s values. For example, you could talk about how unfair it is that people living in certain areas have to bear the brunt of flooding.

As we note in our tips for preparing for a difficult conversation with your MP, your overall aim should be to find a way to work together despite any disagreements you might have. For more information, see our page about working with Conservative MPs or contact us about getting a tailored strategy for your MP.

Hope for the Future Case Study

We worked with Philip Davies MP, one of the 5 MPs who voted against the Climate Change Act in 2008. Tapping into the centre-right values of ‘common sense’ and ‘fairness’, we decided to raise with him the high levels of fuel poverty in his constituency and the common-sense solution of improving housing efficiency. Following the meeting, Mr Davies submitted three written questions on improving housing efficiency in the UK, and in March this year we held an event in his constituency on the role of renewable energy in alleviating fuel poverty.

Green Christianity in a Fragile Planet: An evening with Jo Johnson MP

Guest blog from Alison Dennis

It’s been long journey but finally, more than a year after it began we have arrived at the start! 

JJ poster.jpg

In Summer 2017 an email went around the Orpington Churches asking if anyone would like to meet their MP to talk about climate change. Eventually in December, three responders from different churches met each other in the flesh. With invaluable preparation from Jo Musker-Sherwood, we set out together meet with Jo Johnson MP. 

‘Oh no, not climate change!’ Didn’t seem like a promising start from Jo Johnson but with the help of the notes from Hope for the Future, we managed to sound like we knew what we were talking about. To our surprise he agreed (in principle) to come along to a meeting to discuss environment issues with Churches Together in Orpington. 

Much advice from Hope for the Future, hundreds of emails and a couple of planning get-togethers later, we found ourselves somewhat nervously waiting to see who would turn up to our Friday evening event on Oct 12th 

We were rewarded with 175 attendees, a very positive atmosphere and lots of interest in the exhibition of local and national environmental groups. 29 people signed up saying they would like to take things further. 

Orpington Churches Together

The discussion ranged from ‘How will Brexit affect future government environmental policy?’ to ‘Why is the government permitting fracking when both local and country-wide voters are against it?’ We were elated to hear Jo Johnson say that he saw Churches Together as a place where the most important issues were discussed and to realise that he saw us as a force to be reckoned with. 

You can catch a flavour of what went on from the Livecast on the Orpington Baptist Church Facebook page.

So we begin the journey of influencing our MP, strengthened from 3 of us to 32. As we have seen from the very timely IPCC report – there is not a day to waste. 

The Future of Solar Energy in the UK: An evening with Alex Chalk MP

On Friday 5th October, Stoke Orchard Eco-Community Centre hosted a panel discussion on ‘Government and the Future of Solar Energy. We were delighted to welcome Alex Chalk, MP for Cheltenham to the panel. Alongside Alex, the panelists included; Dr John Henry Looney of Sustainable Direction, Dr Peter Boait from Gloucestershre Energy Co-op and Sophie Franklin, of Tewkesbury Town Council. Hope for the Future supported local Tewkesbury constituent, Jerry Barr, to organise the event which was chaired by our own Assistant Director, Sarah Robinson. In this guest blog, Jerry, reflects on his Hope for the Future journey which began back in 2017…


Engaging with Laurence Robertson, MP for Tewkesbury Borough, Gloucestershire

I was delighted to meet with Jo and Sarah on their visit to north Gloucestershire early in 2017 and hear how Hope for the Future were helping citizens and churches to work with their local MPs on climate change issues.  As a citizen in the Tewkesbury area I had met with Laurence Robertson, our MP on a number of occasions but with frustratingly limited response.  However, HFTF had  established that Laurence had in the past asked a number of questions in the Commons on solar power and suggested that he be invited to chair a panel of experts at a public forum on the subject.  

The event was held in Stoke Orchard Community Centre with 198 solar panels on its roof.

The event was held in Stoke Orchard Community Centre with 198 solar panels on its roof.

The event took place with Alex Chalk, MP for Cheltenham present as Laurence Robertson was unable to attend.  The venue was nevertheless in Laurence’s Tewkesbury Constituency and appropriately in a new Community Centre built on the site of the old National Coal Board Research Centre in Stoke Orchard.  A building fitted with an array of 198 solar panels, a low carbon heat exchange system and other impressive sustainable features. Furthermore with all the residences constructed on the rest of the site fitted with PV solar panels.

Alex Chalk was joined by Dr John Henry Looney of consultancy ‘Sustainable Direction’ who advises businesses in making smart decisions about reducing their carbon footprint. Among his examples was the possibility of using the energy stored in the batteries of electric cars when not in use, how might this be made available at times of peak usage?  Also on the platform was Dr Peter Boait who is at the forefront of research into energy and sustainable development.  He suggested that communities might form cooperatives such as the one under discussion for residents of Barton St in Gloucester, where neighbours could buy and sell surplus energy to each other.  Alex Chalk spoke about the need for government to take the lead on carbon capture and storage.   Alex sees climate change as one of the biggest threats to our future and one that the UK government needs to take at least as seriously as terrorism and antibiotic resistance.  


The following week two of us, myself and Sophie Franklin, were able to meet with Laurence Robertson in his Tewkesbury office and share the content of the forum with him.  We were delighted that Jo Musker-Sherwood was able to join us for that meeting and guide us in developing the conversation.  He has undertaken to raise some of the issues in the House and to join us in a visit to a newly constructed Zero Carbon Home in the Constituency.


As the panel discussion drew to a close, Sarah asked each of the panelists that action they planned to take following the event. To which Alex Chalk responded “I’m going to focus in Parliament on how resources are recalibrated – we could do a lot more with tax payer funding. I’m going to carry on cycling and eat less meat – it’s probably healthier for me too!” Sophie Franklin left the discussion on a positive note as she promised to “convince the whole of Tewkesbury Town to become greener” Since the event, Hope for the Future have suggested some questions to Alex Chalk’s constituency office which we hope he will raise in parliament. Alex has already asked a question on energy meters earlier this month. We are delighted that Jerry and Sophie have secured a visit with Laurence Robertson and look forward to staying updated on their progress to a zero carbon Tewkesbury!  

I.P.C.C Report

Last week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN’s climate change advisory body, released its latest report into climate change, its impacts, and how to mitigate it. The report concludes that the world has not run out of options to tackle climate change, but it does paint a stark and, at times, scary picture of the consequences of leaving emissions unchecked.

The report was commissioned back in 2015 as part of the landmark Paris Agreement. It is the product of three years of research and brings together the findings of three working groups focusing:

  • The science of climate change

  • The impacts on the world

  • The policy options available to us

The report’s main headline is that the world is currently completely off track in our attempts to tackle climate change and keep warming within 1.5°C of pre-industrial levels. Indeed, we are heading towards 3°C of warming and could reach 1.5°C as soon as 2030.

However, perhaps the most interesting part of this report is how it compares 1.5°C of warming with 2°C. It finds that 1.5°C has “clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems” when compared with 2°C. For example, at 1.5°C global sea level rises would be 10cm lower by 2100 than at 2°C of warming. This could save the homes of millions of people who inhabit islands and coastal regions around the globe. Furthermore, heat related deaths, the loss of coral, food scarcity, water shortages, forest fires and ocean acidification would all be considerably less severe at 1.5°C.

So, what can you do to respond to the IPCC report? Well, insulating your home, walking or cycling instead of using your car, installing solar panels on your home, and consuming less meat and dairy are all examples of individual actions you can take that will have an impact. But the report says that we need “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” so we will need to see change at a larger scale as well. The world needs to almost half its carbon emissions by 2030 and have net emissions of zero by 2050. That will require drastic changes to our businesses, energy systems, transport, buildings and infrastructure.

Such changes can only be brought about through collective action led by governments which leaves us relying on our politicians to take action. There is too much at stake to sit back and blame politicians when things go wrong. We must take an active role in encouraging politicians to make the courageous decisions needed to tackle climate change.

This report shows that it is still possible to keep global warming within 1.5°C, but the window for action is closing fast. If we’re to tackle climate change, politicians and citizens need to act now. That is why it’s vital that you meet with your MP.

Hope for the Future, specialists in climate lobbying training, can support you to meet with your MP. You don’t need to have any previous campaigning experience, or a great knowledge of climate change. We can provide you with training, research and support with your MP meeting to discuss the concerns raised in this report, and we would be delighted to help.

Net-zero, New Builds and Neckties: Meeting with Jeremy Quin, MP for Horsham

(Left to right), Sarah Robinson, Jeremy Quin and Carrie Cort met to talk about the Government’s commitments to net zero emissions and the local work going on in Horsham.

(Left to right), Sarah Robinson, Jeremy Quin and Carrie Cort met to talk about the Government’s commitments to net zero emissions and the local work going on in Horsham.

I received an email on Tuesday with details of a last minute constituency meeting with Jeremy Quin MP. Of course, I jumped at the chance to accompany for the meeting because, well, we exist to support constituents in these meetings and to help them get the best out of their MP in that short amount of time. What’s more, each MP meeting contributes to our approach of what makes for effective climate campaigning. This meeting was no exception, I learned so much and it was a real inspiration to hear about the fantastic work going on in Horsham and the surrounding areas. 

Carrie Cort was the constituent who invited me, and we were joined by Jenny Edwards who, along with Carrie and others from the area, were trained to be Climate Reality Leaders by Al Gore. The group had met Jeremy Quin recently at a Share Fair in the local area where Carrie, her son and husband had presented Jeremy with the net zero letter from Simon Clarke MP, asking him to add his signature in support. Jeremy recently became a junior minister in Government as Assistant Whip. Due to this new role he felt that signing would go against the ministerial code (ministers are not allowed to do certain things that other MPs can do such as sign EDMs or submit written questions), so in the meeting we asked him in what ways he could support the letter. Jeremy is very new to the role so was unsure of what exactly he would be able to do, but said that he would write to Claire Perry MP to alert her to the contents of the letter – which we felt was an excellent outcome. 

We spoke with Jeremy about solar in the UK, including the viability of installing solar panels on all new buildings and whether schools with solar panels receive an exemption from the recent increase in solar taxation. He was particularly interested to hear about the Solar Power for Schools project in West Sussex which has a £2.99m budget to install solar power in schools before March 2019. You can read more about solar energy here.

Where Jeremy’s interest was really sparked was talking about the fantastic work Carrie and her group are doing locally. Carrie runs a Repair Cafe which offers a free monthly repair service for broken and worn out items, encouraging a culture of ‘remake, repair and reuse’. The cafe was opened in October 2017 by Jeremy himself. Carrie says “I am known locally for my collection of clothes made out of neckties, conveying the message about reuse”. In fact, in 2016 Carrie won the Guinness World Record for the person wearing the most neckties and currently holds the record at 270! Jeremy Quin was one of the official Guinness World Record judges - the first time he came across Carrie and her environmental work.

At the repair cafe, they also offer energy cost comparison and switching to 100% clean and renewable energy. In the meeting with Jeremy, Carrie told a story of a local lady, a 2-bedroom flat owner in Horsham, whom she had helped to save £100 per year by switching to a renewable energy provider. The lady had been owed over £1,000 by her previous provider so was in tears at the news that the new provider would be able to sort her repayment. Jeremy, unaware that it was even possible to purchase renewably sourced energy through the national grid, showed great interest in this story, and promised to attend the Repair Cafe’s first birthday in October. 

Towards the end of this productive meeting, having built a great rapport with Jeremy, he shocked us by casting doubt over whether the extreme weather events the world has been facing recently is due to climate change or some other explanation such as sunspots. The three of us present at the meeting simply raised our eyebrows and moved the conversation along. But the comment was a stark reminder of the need to continue engaging, informing and encouraging our political leaders on climate action. Jeremy is lucky to have Carrie, Jenny and the rest of their group as dedicated constituents who will continue great work in Horsham, keeping him updated with news and progress. Jeremy will learn more and more about the issue, building in knowledge and confidence until he is able to have nuanced, informed debates and make constructive decisions around the topic of climate change. 

“While it may seem small, the ripple effect of small things is extraordinary”
— Matt Bevin

HFTF Summer BBQ Fundraiser

Just as we approached the final few days of summer, Jo and Greg, Hope for the Future’s Director and her husband, organised a BBQ to raise money for the charity. It was an afternoon to remember with brilliant food and company, an entertaining auction and the chance to learn more about the work of the charity.

“Seeing Hope for the Future grow from a small cluster of Yorkshire churches to a national organisation training over a thousand people each year has been an amazing experience. We held the BBQ in our allotment on the edge of the Peak District to provide a space where people could enjoy the natural environment whilst doing something to benefit it. There is still a very low awareness about climate change in Parliament and beyond, so we were so grateful to everyone who turned out to raise £400 for the work. Hope for the Future's work to equip NGOs, local groups and individuals around the UK to more effectively communicate climate change with politicians is something our friends, family and local community were really glad to support” 

- Our Director Jo and her husband Greg reflect on the fundraiser

None of the brilliant work that Hope for the Future does could be done without the generosity of those that have supported us over the last five years. As Hope for the Future continues to grow we need to grow to maintain our capacity to support constituents and offer training to all those who will benefit from it.  

We’re really pleased to welcome Sarah Buck as our new fundraiser. Sarah would like to encourage anyone who has been feeling inspired and would like to fundraise for Hope for the Future, to get in touch at:

Sarah is originally from a small town called Oswaldtwistle (home of the world's largest pear drop!) but Sheffield is currently home. She has been a fundraiser for a number of organisations, from big ones like Christian Aid, to small ones like the Genesis Trust and Clifton Park Museum. She currently works part time for a brilliant international development charity and is really excited to be joining Hope for the Future as their new fundraiser for one day a week. When Sarah is not busy fundraising, she loves to walk, camp, bake and craft.