As Britain woke up to the results of the general election and yet more uncertainty, one thing became clear: this election and Brexit provides both challenges and opportunities for green issues in the UK and beyond.
The environment is a concern to all political parties but it simply did not feature heavily enough during the campaign. "Hard Brexit", "Immigration", and "Economic Growth" were all terms used to great effect in all campaigns but very little discussion of green issues actually appeared on the campaign trail.
(Credit: Wikipedia Commons)
This only raises in importance when looking at the US president's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. Not to undermine the validity of other policy concerns, we must remember that environmental degradation is happening here and now, and far greater consideration needs to be given to how we maintain the planet and ensure we leave it better than it is for the next generation.
This will require changing mind-sets countrywide and hammering the importance of the issue to everyone across the country. This is not a lost cause, we are finally moving towards business plans that value ethics alongside profits. Employees want to work for businesses with a mission. Suppliers and customers want to collaborate with businesses for the same reason. This is why so many businesses want to be seen as sustainable and take proactive measures to reduce their impact on the planet. It is now in a business's interest to do so.
However, whilst empowering businesses and the public in solving green issues is key - the government has to take a lead, for the public to then follow.
So how can this be done?
Whilst the results of the election may have thrown Brexit into disarray, whatever future relationship the UK chooses to have with the European Union, we must ensure that we take a leading global role on environmental protection and waste reduction.
The Conservatives promised to publish the 25-Year Environment Plan in the spring but this was continuously delayed; especially when the election was announced. Word broke last week that Michael Gove will be brought back into the cabinet as the new Environment Secretary and it will be key for him to ensure in the early stages of his tenure that green issues are not continually pushed down the priority list.
Following Brexit, we should be boosting our competitiveness and we must position ourselves as global leaders in other areas, green innovation being a key one. Having left the European Union, the UK has an opportunity to create its own energy supply, invest in renewable energy and to recycle locally. Just last week we set a renewable energy record.
All sustainability advocates and parliamentarians should be pushing for a progressive green strategy. A unified green agenda can help local councils across the UK to better manage business waste and increase recycling rates. Recycling can also help businesses reduce the cost of waste disposal so money can be spent elsewhere - these facts should have been at the front of any campaign. As technology increases, innovative ways for businesses to reduce their carbon footprint will continue to appear, and prioritising this going forward is key.
What happens now?
All areas of industry, from politicians to environmentalists to business leaders, must work together to ensure that the UK takes 'environmental responsibility' now. It will be up to government, businesses and the public to push for larger recycling targets, look to alternative sources of power, share best practice and harness innovation in order to accomplish the change we need to see.