Brexit a threat to Paris deal, says UK climate advisor

Strong voice for climate ambition at heart of world’s largest internal market is vital to maintain momentum post 2015 pact, says Lord Deben

European Parliament building in Strasbourg (Pic: Flickr/Emiliano)

European Parliament building in Strasbourg (Pic: Flickr/Emiliano)

By Ed King

A British vote to exit the European Union in June would represent a blow to the 2015 Paris climate deal, the country’s top climate advisor has warned.

Former Conservative environment minister Lord Deben, who now chairs the UK Committee on Climate Change, made the comments during a talk hosted by the IPPR think tank in London.

“Brexit is a threat to Paris,” said Deben, who is a vocal campaigner for Britain to maintain its links with Brussels.

“I’m optimistic about the European Union because I think the British people aren’t so stupid to go out – but there’s a long way to go and a great deal to do and we must not leave any stone unturned,” he added.

The referendum is slated for 23 June and has already caused significant splits within the ruling Tory party.

UK climate chief Amber Rudd supports moves to stay allied with Brussels, but her deputy energy minister Andrea Leadsom is campaigning to leave.

Brexit: what impact on the climate?

Deben argued an exit from the 28-strong club of countries would remove a strong voice for tougher greenhouse gas cuts from the world’s largest single market.

Despite a swathe of domestic cuts to clean energy programmes, the London government has long pushed fellow European states to boost its 2030 carbon target from 40% to 50% cuts on 1990 levels.

Germany, Austria, Portugal and Luxembourg are among those who support the proposal, which would likely be achieved by buying international carbon offsets.

Italy, Hungary, Lithuania and Poland are among those ranged against any more ambitious goals.

The Paris deal saw 195 countries agree to limit global warming to below 2C and achieve net zero emissions by the second half of the century.

While the UK accounts for around 1% of worldwide emissions, the EU’s total is nearer 10%.

As the world’s largest single market it can also set appliance and regulatory standards that shape policies in all major economies, Deben said.

“You don’t have any power to get the European Union to move because you’re outside… it’s taking away from the EU what has in the past been a progressive voice,” he said.

“What we need is greater sovereignty, a stronger voice… if we aren’t there we can’t do it and others will decide for us.”

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