• Will Leaving the EU Make it Harder for the UK to Tackle Climate Change?

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Will Leaving the EU Make it Harder for the UK to Tackle Climate Change?

Jul 12 2016

In the wake of the uncertainty caused by the surprise decision for the UK to leave the EU in last month’s referendum, the UK secretary for Energy and Climate Amber Rudd admitted that the split would now make it harder for the nation to achieve its goals with regards to global warming.

However, Rudd was quick to assert that the UK is as committed as ever to carrying out its responsibility in terms of cutting carbon emissions and still believes that the time for change is now when it comes to climate change.

 “Commitment has not gone away”

Speaking at an event in London, Rudd affirmed that the doubt caused by the Brexit vote would affect the energy sector, but reiterated the government’s desire to remain energy-conscious.

“While I think the UK’s role in dealing with a warming planet may have been made harder by the decision last Thursday, our commitment to dealing with it has not gone away,” she said. “Securing our energy supply, keeping bills low and building a low carbon energy infrastructure: the challenges remain the same. Our commitment also remains the same. As I said, I think the decision last week risks making it a harder road.

“The decision on Thursday raises a host of questions for the energy sector, of course it does. There have been significant advantages to us trading energy both within Europe and being an entry point into Europe from the rest of the world.”

Rudd underlined the government’s plans to plough ahead with a £23 billion expansion of the Somerset nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point, and pointed to the project as a sign of their ongoing commitment. Moreover, UK ministers approved new carbon emissions targets for the 2030s at the end of June which are at the forefront of environmentalism.

Action needed to accompany speech

Environmentalists around the UK welcomed Rudd’s endorsement of green energy but warned that action must follow her speech.

“Soothing words are not good enough,” said John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace. “Green investor confidence in the UK was shaky before Brexit because of the government’s ever changing and incoherent policies, which neither minister seem willing to get to grips with even now.”

Others called on the government to rethink their policies on renewable energy. Over the last year or two, the Conservatives have overseen a sector-wide roll back in subsidies and support for green energy industries, with solar thermal power the latest casualty earlier this year – a move which Rudd herself sanctioned.

“It is precisely now, at this moment which is so unpredictable and uncertain, that I believe we should reflect on what we can offer; cheap, homegrown electricity able to deliver hundreds of millions of pounds of capital investment for our economy over the next few years, helping companies all over Britain just at a time when we need it most,” asserted Hugh McNeal, chief executive of RenewableUK.  

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