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Friday, 1 July 2016

Brexit: and energy

There were implications for the green economy before the referendum:
Futures Forum: Brexit/Bremain: and the green economy: "Energy and environment ministers, green NGOs and sustainable businesses groups agree that remaining IN the EU is crucial for our transition to a low-carbon future."

And for the environment in general after the referendum:
Futures Forum: Brexit: and the environment

The New Economics Foundation gives its view of where we are:

Energy round-up: Brexit - 3 of the things we don’t know

JULY 1, 2016 // BY: DAVID POWELL

As with just about everything else, the implications of Brexit for energy and climate policy will take a long while to become clear. Here are just three of the things we don’t yet know. 

1. Which of the EU’s policies will we keep?

Britain may well seek to remain a member of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS): UK ministers broadly like it, seeing it as a “cost-effective” way of cutting emissions. 
But the Conservative government was no fan of the EU Renewable Energy Directive, which requires the UK to source 15% of its energy from renewables by 2020.
Britain had lobbied hard against an extension of these targets and was on course to miss those it already had anyway. So you can count on us missing them now the financial penalties for doing so seem unlikely.
This reveals much about the general tenor of UK energy policy for the last year. Both at home and via its influence in Brussels it has pushed for market-based mechanisms like the ETS and the stamping down of renewable energy subsidies – while doling out tax breaks for fossil fuels. These ideologically-driven decisions have cost more than half of the UK’s solar jobs and appalled investors.   
The UK is the main driver of a creeping and deliberate project ofderegulation that has undermined protections for people and planet.  Notwithstanding a huge change of course on domestic economic policy that will continue to be a guiding precept.
So it is very likely, for example, that the UK will try to remain part of the EU’s Energy Union, a huge project to open up energy markets to private competition and connect them up across member states.

2. What about our own climate laws?

Polls suggested those who voted leave may be twice as likely to mistrust climate science. But Brexit wasn’t a referendum on the environment or climate and it must not be interpreted as such. 
Importantly, not all of our climate policy comes from Brussels. The centrepiece of our legislation is the UK’s unilateral Climate Change Act.  It compels governments to cut emissions by at least 80% by 2050, and unpicking it would be difficult and extremely controversial – it was originally backed by all but four MPs.
Encouragingly just this week ministers were set to agree to the ‘fifth carbon budget’ that sets out an effective target for the year 2032: a 57% reduction in emissions compared to 1990 levels, the very bottom end of what’s consistent with climate science, but reassuring nonetheless. 
However the UK’s new 2032 target is considerably more ambitious than that of the EU (40% by 2030). Those who oppose strong UK climate leadership, like George Osborne, may use Brexit as a way to revive discredited claims that cutting carbon faster than the EU is bad for business.
The irony would be that the resulting first-mover advantage in green goods and services could and should be a precious lifeline for the UK in troubled economic times, as it partially was after the crash
Perhaps more positively, rumours abound that Brexit could be another nail in the coffin of the eye-wateringly expensive proposals for a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point. 

3. What other impacts will Brexit have on climate change?

The UK is only responsible for 2% of global emissions, but as one of the world’s largest economies it has been an inspiration to other countries on how to hardwire long-term environmental objectives into policy making. As the UK’s former international climate change negotiator, John Ashton,notes:
 “Other countries have seen what the UK has done already. The Climate Change Act is the most ambitious and robust climate legislation in the world. People saw it pass with strong support across the political spectrum, and this has greatly strengthened the hand of those who want to do the same in other countries.”
It’s critical that whatever happens the UK doesn’t try to back away from a leading position on climate. An economic slowdown could increase the chances of this. While good for emissions in the very short term, economic crises don’t generally tend to be good news for a focus on environmental policy.
Just about the only thing we know for certain is that there’s a great deal of uncertainty around – never a good thing for investor confidence.
With MPs saying that the UK is already hugely underinvesting in clean energy, a hiatus in low-carbon spending is precisely the last thing we need.  
ISSUES


Energy round-up: Brexit - 3 of the things we don’t know | New Economics Foundation
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