Guest essay by Eric Worrall
British academics are worried that the British People might choose to de-prioritise climate policy, if they are allowed to make their own choices instead of being shackled to the EU bureaucracy.
What will Brexit mean for the climate? (Clue: it doesn’t look good)
Research Fellow, SPRU (Science Policy Research Unit), University of Sussex
Project Manager: TRANSrisk, University of Sussex
December 1, 2017 8.05pm AEDT
With Brexit negotiations stuck on divorce bills and borders, complex issues such as climate change barely receive a mention. Yet the UK has agreements with the EU around emissions targets and technology transfer, and Brexit represents a significant threat to the UK’s progress on cutting carbon emissions.
The UK’s recent clean growth strategy document devotes scant attention to Brexit, providing only a single page on “leaving the European Union”. Yet, other public institutions, as well as the mainstream media, have raised questions concerning climate change, Brexit and the UK government’s attitude.
After Brexit, the UK will need to establish up its own position within the UNFCCC as an independent member. It will have to ratify the Paris Agreement on its own, and produce its individual NDC. Whilst this is achievable, time, space and resources will be required. The delay could possibly leave the UK behind compared to other international actors.
Exiting the EU-ETS is another serious issue. It is the world’s oldest and largest emissions trading scheme and is the primary joint tool adopted by the EU to reduce carbon. The scheme allocates free and/or auctioned allowances to operators, and creates a market for those who wish to purchase or sell allowances. A shrinking cap for allowances reduces emissions over time, directing efforts to where emission cuts are most cost effective. The EU-ETS has also triggered growth in climate-related financial services.
The UK may establish its own national ETS, but there is huge uncertainty over timing, size, shape and effectiveness. This is highly detrimental for UK companies subject to the EU-ETS that will lose access to the system from January 2018, hence facing significant cost increases for their emissions reductions. In addition, London may lose its leading position in climate related-financial services.
I blame the EU for this situation.
Despite substantial grumbling, the UK still overwhelmingly supports politicians who embrace renewables, who advocate aggressive emissions reduction policies.
When Britain first voted Brexit, the British government hoped for an amicable separation. But the EU is making Brexit very difficult for Britain. According to German academic Professor Thorsten Polleit, this intransigence is deliberate – Professor Polleit thinks the EU is deliberately punishing Britain for voting Brexit. Professor Polleit is not alone in making that accusation.
The EU are currently demanding a Brexit “divorce bill” of £50 billion (USD $67 billion) to agree to discuss favourable post Brexit trade terms – an obscene demand which has caused public outrage in Britain.
Britain are not prioritising climate change because they are trying to avoid 100s of thousands of job losses. In my opinion the EU leaders are acting like spoiled children, they don’t seem to care about the environment. They seem to be having way too much fun taunting people worried about their future with outrageous demands for cash. Until this school yard bullying subsides, neither side is going to prioritise problems which might happen decades from now over very real problems which are happening right now.