Brexit, climate change, and Project Fear

Project Fear knows no shame, and cares little whether its claims about Brexit are bogus. Their scaremongering over climate change policy is yet another desperate campaign of dishonesty

Drowning in Project Fear?
Joel Casement
On 15 February 2019 14:49

Project Fear has been persistent with its attacks about how Britain’s climate change policy will be damaged by Brexit. In fact, Brexit will not limit Britain’s ability to be a global leader in the fight against climate change. A Global Britain can be a technological and policy pioneer on the world stage.

Despite Project Fear’s assertions, we will not abandon our climate change policies.

It is nearly eleven years since the UK’s Climate Change Act, a pioneering piece of legislation which enjoyed clear cross-party and public support throughout the United Kingdom. The central issue of reducing carbon emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050 is still realistic, but we should be asking ourselves if this is ambitious enough.

Project Fear has made the case of Britain reneging on its climate change policies and commitments after Brexit. This is simply not the case. Most importantly, the Paris Climate Change Agreement will not be affected by Brexit. We signed up as an independent nation, and we have the option to act jointly with the EU to implement the agreement or as an individual party.

We will continue to be a Global Leader in combating climate change. One such area is coal-fired electricity. The UK’s phase-out of coal-fired electricity generation has been faster than any other country in the world. It has reduced carbon emissions from its power system by more than twice as much as some other countries. Brexit will not affect this policy in any way.

Brexit will be beneficial as the UK will be able to set its own carbon pricing, without the current implicit obligation to follow the EU line. The UK piloted its own carbon market before the Emissions Trading System (ETS) was established, and then played the leading role in establishing the ETS, which is now the world’s largest carbon market.

The UK is currently limited significantly by its price floor being set four times higher than the EU’s. Leaving the EU and the ETS will give the UK full control over its pricing.

As a result of Brexit, the UK will be able to set its own directives. The EU Renewable Energy Directive of 2009 set binding targets for each Member State for the proportion of energy consumption which should come from renewable energy sources by 2020. During the 2009 negotiations the UK argued against the 15% reduction target set for it by the EU. Departure from the EU means the UK is no longer bound by EU climate change legislation, and will not face sanctions for missing the renewable energy targets.

We can be flexible and set ambitious targets which mirror our capabilities.

Labour have made the claim that “our EU membership has been key to delivering and enforcing UK emission reductions”, according to Matthew Pennycook MP, a Shadow Brexit Minister.

Labour believes the European Court of Justice has been effective in getting Whitehall to live up to its pledges. Again, this is simply untrue. The UK agreed to generate 30% of its electricity by renewable sources by 2030. Post 2020, Brexit will not make a difference to UK energy policy – because Britain’s own unilateral Climate Change Act 2008 actually imposes even tougher requirements for cutting carbon emissions.

Britain will benefit from ‘Green Finance’, which supports private investment into sustainable projects and infrastructure. The UK is a leading European financial centre for Green Finance and London is the third largest bond market in the world.

The EU needs the UK to remain in this position because, as is the case with Financial Services more generally, the EU does not have the infrastructure or capacity to replace the UK in this field. Secondly, the UK is the EU’s leading financial centre for its transfer of funding to developing countries. The EU would face a significant drop in its development and climate change finance after Brexit unless it cooperates with the UK.

On Friday, 15th February, many British children took a day off school to strike and take part in a global youth action day over climate change. The former Education Secretary, now Environment Secretary, Michael Gove is behind much of the change, and has become a fully-fledged environmentalist. Many see his promise of a post Brexit “Green Revolution” as part of a future leadership bid.

Project Fear has claimed that the UK will be isolated after Brexit, but climate change is one of the areas where cooperation will continue.

The UK and the EU overlap in international climate negotiations. Britain will continue as a global leader in combating change. When we Get Britain Out of the EU, we will continue as before and go from strength to strength, benefiting ourselves and remaining a global leader and innovator.

Joel Casement is a Research Executive at cross-party, grassroots campaign Get Britain Out


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