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UK EU exit would damage 2030 climate talks

13 May 2016 17:58 (+01:00 GMT)
UK EU exit would damage 2030 climate talks

London, 13 May (Argus) — A UK exit from the EU would make passing strong climate policy difficult at a time when a number of important pieces of legislation are due to be discussed, MEPs and observers said.

In the October 2014 EU Council conclusions EU leaders agreed a 2030 target for EU emissions of at least 40pc below 1990 levels, a non-mandatory target of 27pc of renewables in final energy consumption, and a target to increase energy efficiency in the EU by at least 27pc compared with business-as-usual projections for 2030.

Discussions on phase four (2021-30) of the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS) are already under way. The commission will this year present proposals on the implementation of the non-EU ETS emissions reduction target, the 2030 renewables target and the energy efficiency target.

In normal circumstances the October 2014 conclusions would act as a template for the ambition laid out in all these pieces of legislation.

But a UK vote to leave the EU would undermine the continuing authority of those conclusions to act as such a template.

"Those conclusions had something for everyone. As soon as someone exits, they become unbalanced," one observer of the council negotiations said.

For example member states could claim that aspects of the conclusions that the UK was keen on should now be assigned less importance.

The UK was one of the nations that pushed hard for the "at least 40pc" overall reduction target. While it is unlikely that this target will be reduced, partly because of the "at least" clause, other member states could use this as a way to try to gain concessions in other areas, for example the strength of the other headline targets, how forestry is accounted for in terms of emissions reductions, or how many free allowances are handed out in the EU ETS.

A second factor is that the UK will hold the rotating presidency of the EU in the second half of 2017, when the effort-sharing decision, and the renewables and energy efficiency legislation are in final talks.

"A lot of people were looking towards that presidency as having the resources to guide those files safely onto the statute books," one lobbyist from an industry body said.

"If the UK has voted to leave it is likely it would still hold the presidency but with a diluted mandate and a diluted interest in getting the laws agreed as it wants them. That bodes badly for ensuring strong legislation is passed."

The process of leaving the EU is likely to take at least two years, meaning the UK would still be likely to hold the presidency during that term.

"If it did not that would mean the presidency would pass to Malta, and many of the same concerns would apply," another observer said.