Tuesday, June 28, 2016

EU Out Vote Puts UK Commitment to Paris Climate Agreement in Doubt

Neither the UK government or the EU have ratified the Paris climate agreement yet. (Photograph Credit: Stephane Mahe/Reuters) Click to Enlarge.
The UK government won high praise six months ago for taking a leading role in the successful Paris climate change agreement, the first legally binding commitment on curbing carbon emissions by all 195 United Nations countries.

With the vote to leave the EU, the UK’s future participation in that landmark accord is now in doubt.

More importantly, for the rest of the world, the Leave campaign’s victory provides a fillip globally for groups opposed to climate action, and if it causes delays to the Paris accord coming into effect, it could provide an opening for aspiring right-wing leaders - including Donald Trump - to try to unpick the pact.

“There is a risk that this could kick EU ratification of the Paris agreement into the long grass,” Jonathan Grant, director of sustainability at PwC, told the Guardian.

That would be a setback to the UN in itself, but also concerns participants because of the US presidential election this year.

Donald Trump has vowed to withdraw from the Paris agreement if elected.  Proponents of the agreement are therefore hoping for a quick process of ratification by as many parties as possible, including EU member states, which would bring the agreement into immediate effect and make it much harder for countries to renege upon afterwards.

As an EU member state, the UK negotiated on key issues such as greenhouse gas emissions limits as part of the bloc, and was expected to take on its own tally of emissions reductions based on an EU-wide “burden-sharing” agreement, yet to be worked out.  But while the UK is also individually party to the agreement, as a sovereign nation, neither the government nor the EU has yet ratified the accord in law.

This means a future, possibly Eurosceptic, prime minister will face the choice of whether to ratify, unless the current government, led by David Cameron for the next three months, decides to do so as a matter of urgency.

France became the first EU member state to ratify the agreement individually earlier this month, so in theory Britain could follow suit quickly.  But this would be an unusual step given the host of pressing issues following from the referendum, and would be likely to prompt an outcry from sections of the pro-Brexit right, prominent members of which are also climate change sceptics.

Amber Rudd, the energy and climate change secretary, who was praised by many other countries for taking a leading role at Paris, has not yet revealed what the plans are likely to be.

Read more at EU Out Vote Puts UK Commitment to Paris Climate Agreement in Doubt

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