Leaving the EU Would Be an Act of Self-Inflicted Environmental Vandalism That Would Hurt Young People the Most

05/06/2016 17:24 | Updated 06 June 2016

young voter

There are so many good reasons for young people to vote for Britain to remain a member of the European Union. If you're a worker then your rights are guaranteed by European rules, if you're a student then you've got more options to study abroad - and if you're a woman then you're protected from discrimination. In fact, for most young people, being part of the European Union just makes sense - it's part of everyday life.

But there's a real concern that young people's support For the European Union risks not being fairly represented at the ballot box - because turnout among the young is expected to be so low.

I can understand why you might be tempted not to vote. The campaign has been dominated on both sides by men in grey suits shouting at each other about growth projections and migration statistics. Often the debate has simply been between two factions within the Tory party - hardly the most thrilling political discourse imaginable.

There is, however, much more at stake in this referendum than the Tory leadership contest - indeed this poll matters more to this country than any single general election ever will. For me the most compelling issue at the heart of this debate is around the protection of our environment - something we should all be considering today as it's World Environment Day.

The simple fact is that the EU has been essential for environmental protection.

Challenges like air pollution, sewage in the seas and threats to migrating species don't queue up politely at national borders, waiting for their passports to be checked. Indeed if we didn't have the EU to bring together countries to work on these issues, then we'd have to invent it all over again.

In every corner of Britain the EU is protecting the environment. Towns and cities blighted by air pollution are finally seeing the British Government forced to act to cut the amount of dangerous particles we're breathing. Precious species in the countryside are protected by tough EU laws which stop overzealous development. Our beaches - many of which were too filthy to enjoy not so long ago - are now cleaner, and our once-polluted seas are safer to swim in too. Young people enjoy a cleaner environment than their parents did at their age - but Brexit risks all of this progress.

As for climate change, we know that it is already wreaking havoc across the globe, but the fact is that the majority of those commentating on the EU debate will be long gone before the worst effects hit. Young people, on the other hand, are really worried about climate change - and how it will affect their lives. To stand any chance of stopping further climate disaster we need to work with our neighbours on this colossal intergenerational injustice.

The EU was instrumental in insuring that the outcome of the Paris climate talks was more ambitious than many of us expected. And EU rules have already forced some of Britain's dirties power stations to close. More importantly than what's happened in the past, is the need to work together across borders in the future - and go further than ever before on climate change. Anyone who cares about this existential challenge really shouldn't be considering anything else other than voting to remain, and persuading everyone they know to do the same.

If the above evidence isn't enough to convince you then you might consider the environmental credentials of the Brexiteers. On the one hand you've got Boris' longstanding and evidence-free climate scepticism and on the other you've got George Eustice saying that if we left the EU then he'd scrap vital protections like the Habitats Directive. These people can't be trusted on environmental protection.

I can understand why people have concerns about the EU - and I don't pretend for a second that it's perfect. But if you're someone who cares about the environment then the evidence for a 'Remain' vote is indisputable.

The bottom line is this: leaving the European Union would be an act of self-inflicted environmental vandalism and it would hurt the youngest the most.

So let's remain a member of the EU and work to make it even better at protecting the environment. The men in grey suits might not care that much - it's down to young people to show that it really matters.

HuffPost UK Young Voices is running a fortnight-long focus on the EU Referendum, examining what is at stake for Britain's young people on 23 June and why it's imperative you register to vote and have your say. If you want to have your say and blog on our platform around this topic, email Register to vote here.