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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

18 March 2021 – A new report from University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership examines the opportunities and challenges for climate leadership in the context of Brexit. 

 

Read the report

The new briefing, which draws on insights from the Corporate Leaders Group, looks at the ways the UK’s departure from the EU may impact the UK Government’s ability to deliver ambitious climate policy in the coming years, and incentivise positive action at an international level. It states that in order ‘for the UK to maintain and build on its reputation as a global leader on climate, it must put climate at the centre of its policies, and back bold statements and ambitious agendas with action’.   

Brexit and UK climate leadership: The emerging opportunities and challengesoutlines some of the ways Brexit could make this task easier or more challenging, exploring climate ambition, regulation, economic leverage, research and innovation, and political influence, as well as recommending next steps. This briefing seeks to act as a discussion starter on the various ways in which the UK’s departure from the EU (Brexit) may impact on the UK’s ability to deliver ambitious and bold climate policy in the coming years, and to incentivise positive action on climate internationally. This covers a number of key areas of EU-UK collaboration, but it does not seek to be an exhaustive overview of the implications of Brexit.  

As well as looking at the opportunities for the UK to build on its reputation for climate leadership and how it can use international diplomacy to catalyse increased action by other countries, one of the recommendations is for the UK to identify where there are benefits with close collaboration and linkage to the EU, as the closest large market, and to actively pursue those links – for example connecting emissions trading systems.  

To deliver on the post-Brexit vision of ‘Global Britain’ as set out by the Prime Minister and the wider UK government, the UK needs a clear strategy for how it will leverage its strengths and manage the new challenges.  

With specific regard to climate leadership this could include: 

  • Well before COP26, setting out a comprehensive Net Zero Strategy and policy framework to deliver on the UK’s climate targets that is credible domestically and internationally, so it can build on its reputation for climate leadership and support the UK’s international diplomacy to catalyse increased action by other countries. 
  • Identifying where there are benefits with close collaboration and linkage to the EU, as the closest large market, and actively pursuing those links – for example connecting emissions trading systems.  
  • Identifying where the UK can move more flexibly and nimbly than the EU, using its freedom to regulate and deregulate, to support innovation and to set its own priorities to pilot new approaches that can unlock economic transition and more sustainable approaches more quickly and effectively. 
  • Using 2021 and the opportunities provided by the G7 and COP26 to reintroduce the UK to the world as a post-Brexit actor – demonstrating it can be an internationally minded, credible, reliable and strong global partner.  

Disclaimer 

The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of the Corporate Leaders Groups, CISL, the wider University of Cambridge, or clients. 

Authors and acknowledgements 

This briefing was authored by Sanna Markkanen, with input from Beverley Cornaby and Eliot Whittington. 

Citing this report 

University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL). (2021). Business briefing: Brexit and UK climate leadership: The emerging opportunities and challenges. Cambridge, UK: The University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership 

Published March 2021

Authors and acknowledgements

This briefing was authored by Sanna Markkanen, with input from Beverley Cornaby and Eliot Whittington. 

Disclaimer

The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of the Corporate Leaders Groups, CISL, the wider University of Cambridge, or clients.