A no-deal Brexit will not compromise net zero

viernes, 11 de octubre de 2019 | Trading

Energy and Clean Growth Minister claims a no-deal Brexit will 'not in any way' be compromised by Brexit and insists government shares XR concerns - even if the Prime Minister did call them 'crusties'

A 'no-deal' Brexit will not impact the UK's ability to deliver on its 2050 net zero emissions target, Energy and Clean Growth Minister Kwasi Kwarteng has claimed today, sparking immediate pushback from green groups monitoring the issue.

In an exclusive interview with BusinessGreen, Kwarteng said Brexit will "not in any way" compromise the UK's ability to hit net zero emissions in 2050, despite fears a no-deal Brexit could reverse progress on green standards and spark an economic downturn that would limit the UK's ability to invest in the low carbon transition.

Speaking at battery company Powervault's London headquarters this morning, Kwarteng said the firm was a clean technology "success story" and insisted investment in the green economy would continue regardless of Brexit. 

"I think our ability to hit the net zero target is not in any way compromised by what is happening about Brexit," he added, pointing out the current net zero deadline is "in 31 years' time".

The comments came amid mounting fears the UK could still exit the EU without a deal, either at the end of the month in breach of current legislation or after an election this autumn. A "frank" phone call between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, during which Merkel reportedly rejected Johnson's Brexit proposals as unworkable, has left political insiders downplaying the chances of a deal. 

A conversation between Johnson and Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar this afternoon saw both sides brief that a route to a deal remained possible, but observers remain sceptical the deadlock between the government, the EU, and parliament can be broken.

Kwarteng dismissed the contention that the UK is heading for a 'no-deal' exit from the EU, but insisted the net zero target would not be compromised by any of the various Brexit scenarios.

He also told BusinessGreen the UK "will lead" on environmental issues outside the EU, despite Johnson's proposals appearing to ditch a promise made by Theresa May that the UK would not undercut EU environmental standards. "I don't believe that actually if you left the EU we would somehow be very slow in this," he said. "I think we are leading, and we will lead when we are outside just as well as we are now."

However, his comments were challenged by Green Alliance, one of the environmental groups involved in the GreenerUK coalition, which has repeatedly warned a no deal would be catastrophic for the UK's environment.

ts policy director Dustin Benton today argued a no deal Brexit would make meeting the UK's net zero target "more difficult".

"Committing to achieve net zero, Brexit deal or not, is a welcome commitment," Benton told BusinessGreen. "But we shouldn't pretend that no deal won't make reaching net zero more difficult. There are huge risks under a no deal scenario, whether through high carbon food imports, a drop in the carbon price, a more unstable automotive industry or lower investment in UK green technology."

"We are far more likely to be successful in tackling the climate and environmental crisis by maintaining a close relationship with the EU - rather than abruptly severing ties," he added.

Meanwhile green experts are also concerned the ongoing political drama over Brexit is distracting policy makers from the need to strengthen the UK's climate policy framework.

he Committee on Climate Change (CCC) warned this summer that the UK must develop a policy package to put the UK on track for the net zero target "over the next 12-18 months" ahead of next year's COP26 Summit in Glasgow.

Kwarteng insisted there is "ongoing work" to develop the government's net zero approach, including an imminent energy whitepaper in the New Year.

"We are going to have an Energy Whitepaper, which people have been talking about at the beginning of the New Year," Kwarteng said. "We are also, for the first time, looking at pathways to net zero, how we can actually get there. Because it's an easy thing to say 'right this is the target' but it is a more difficult thing to say how we get there. We are looking at that all the time and we have plans."

However, many businesses and campaigners want the government to fast track its decarbonisation plans and provide updated carbon budgets and a new edition of the Clean Growth Strategy that are in line with the new net zero target.

As BusinessGreen spoke with Kwarteng, Extinction Rebellion protestors maintained their blockade of streets around Whitehall in a bid to press home their demands for the UK to move its net zero target date forward to 2025.

Asked whether he thought the Prime Minister was right to call members of the group "uncooperative crusties" earlier this week, Kwarteng said the PM has a "particular flamboyance of speech" but insisted the government "shares the aspirations" of the protestors. Johnson is "very, very, committed to this issue," he added.

However, COP26 President and Kwarteng's predecessor in the role of Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry today criticised the protestors goals and tactics, arguing that climate scientists recommend a global net zero target of 2050.

Writing on Twitter, Perry responded to a video from Paralympic medallist James Brown climbing on the roof of an airplane by accusing the protestors of scaring people "to make headlines for five minutes".

"What we need now is to follow the global science and cut emissions to Net Zero by 2050 including in hardest to reach areas like steel making which creates more than three times the emissions of aviation," she wrote. "Let's solve the problem for ever not scare people to make headlines for five minutes."

Separately, Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom provided a column for the Evening Standard today criticising the protestors and defending the government's record. 

"While I share the concern for action on climate change, I cannot condone their short-sighted tactics," she wrote. "They are protesting on the wrong streets, in the wrong city - the wrong country.

"Because despite the yelling and jeering as I try to make my way between my department and Parliament, and despite the claims that we are doing nothing to halt the devastating impacts of climate change, the UK has a long and proud record of global leadership in this area, as anyone who has looked up the facts will know."

The interventions sparked immediate criticism from campaigners, who argued that the UK is not currently on track to meet its emissions targets, is yet to come forward with a credible plan for meeting a net zero goal that some scientists maintain should be earlier than 2050, and has not done enough to lobby other countries to cut their emissions.  

Source: BusinessGreen