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Analysis

Staying in EU is our best shot at averting climate disaster

by Luke Lythgoe | 02.05.2019

Climate activists have brought parts of central London to a standstill. Politicians are falling over themselves to meet a 16-year-old Swedish campaigner. Parliament has declared an environmental emergency. Government experts are recommending more ambitious emissions targets.

Climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution have all shot to the top of the political agenda in 2019. But an awkward fact remains: Brexit will make it harder for the UK to have an impact.

It’s not just that politicians are spending all their time “talking about Brexit”, as Greta Thunberg chided EU leaders last month. Being outside the EU will reduce the UK’s ability to influence the climate policies of our continent. The UK’s voice on the world stage is much louder when amplified by the EU.

Take today’s report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the independent body which advises the government on climate policy. It will be easier to achieve many of its recommendations if the UK stays an EU member.

The central call – for net-zero UK carbon emissions by 2050 – must be “replicated across the world” if we are to deliver a “greater than 50% chance of limiting the temperature increase to 1.5°C” as pursued in the Paris Climate Agreement. Any higher than that, the UN’s leading climate scientists have said, and we will worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

The outcome must be global, and so too are many of the actions recommended by the CCC. This includes “helping countries onto a sustainable development path” and this is better done as an EU member. After all, the EU is the world’s biggest donor of development assistance, with the UK one of the leaders. Much of this aid spending should be targeted at environmentally sustainable projects.

The EU, with its half a billion fairly rich consumers, is able to set ambitious environmental terms in its trade agreements with other countries. This could include requiring trade partners to meet its standards in farming, manufacturing or shipping. The UK, on its own, can never have anything like the same influence.

Brexit also risks the UK losing out on green investment and job opportunities. The European Commission has pledged to spend a quarter of the next EU budget on mitigating climate change. Several UK companies are leaders in green technologies such as solar power – it’s reasonable to assume much of this EU expenditure would be spent on UK projects, creating new skilled jobs and a booming green economy.

The UK has traditionally been a leader on climate change within Europe. Our Climate Change Act 2008 was the world’s first legally-binding framework for tackling climate change. We played a key role in securing the Paris climate change pact. But no matter how ambitious our targets – and they could still be more ambitious – our efforts will be futile unless other countries join in. Our best shot at achieving that is to stay in the EU and leverage our power on a global scale.

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Published and promoted by Hugo Dixon on behalf of Referendum Facts Ltd., Millbank Tower, 21-24 Millbank, London SW1P 4QP

Edited by Hugo Dixon

5 Responses to “Staying in EU is our best shot at averting climate disaster”

  • Brexit has never made any sense to me from an environmental viewpoint. Swapping trade from a concentrated regional area to a global worldwide area must result in greater CO2 emissions, and indeed higher fuel transport costs.
    If you export and import outside your own continent, you almost by definition have to concentrate on the most environmentally damaging transport means, i.e. air travel. Brexit no doubt is a main reason for the Government wanting to expand Heathrow. Many of Brexit’s supporters talk about increased trade with Australia and New Zealand, to where air flights could scarcely be more environmentally harmful.

  • Absolutely agreed. But how do we deal with the ” macho Brexiters ” who believe passionately that the UK can do by itself all these things highlighted by Luke in the above article ? The denial of the reality of the UK ‘s position in the world by the Brexiters, in particular those in the Conservative party, is a serious psychological problem they have that cannot be dealt with by any rational argument.

    They are impervious to facts on the ground.

  • The problem I find is that you are not allowed to say that many Brexiters are ‘ignorant of the facts’ or driven by prejudice and myths sown by the likes of Farage. It is almost impossible to break down prejudice because it actually means thinking ill of something or someone without good reason or direct evidence. I have had one guy tell me that he wants to be free of the ‘tyranny’ of the EU so that he can sell his goods freely to the ‘ever expanding British Commonwealth’. He actually thinks the Commonwealth is gaining more countries and is controlled by the British. Anyone who tries to correct such ‘misunderstanding’ or prejudice is told that they are patronising and ‘superior’. As David Quinn says, there is a mass of people ‘impervious to the facts’. Daily, I curse the wretched Tory Party that has dumped the country into this quagmire. It is hard to believe that politicians want to deliver a Brexit disaster that they know is wrong and will ruin the country. It is not good enough to excuse themselves by deeming it ‘ the will of the people’.

  • More delusion about the failed eu. Had it not been for eu sponsorship of diesel engines we would not all now be in polluting diesel car. Had we not been in the eu manufacturing would be based where the need was not in a third country with astronomical transport and carbon costs. Sooner the failed eu is broken up and countries stand together to work outside the dictatorship the better for all it will be.

  • Isn’t the economic domination of the EU (and especially the Eurozone) by Germany — a country that is sadly in the grip of fervent anti-nuclear-power ideology — a serious problem when it comes to tackling climate change?