Green Energy Advocates Alarmed About Theresa May’s Brexit Plans

  • Date: 20/01/17
  • Sonja van Renssen, Energy Post

It suddenly looks like the UK may not stay in the EU’s Emission Trading System (ETS) and internal energy market after all. In her speech at Lancaster House on Tuesday, 17 January, UK Prime Minister Theresa May crystallised the “hard Brexit” path that the UK has started down.

Among other things, she said:

“Not partial membership of the European Union, associate membership of the European Union, anything that leaves us half-in, half-out. We do not seek to adopt a model already enjoyed by other countries.”

 “We will take back control of our laws and bring to an end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain.”

“What I am proposing cannot mean membership of the Single Market.”

Stakeholders in the energy sector told Energy Post that the messages were not a surprise, but some found them worrying nonetheless. “This is taking us into dangerous territory,” said Jonathan Gaventa, Director at think tank E3G. There is plenty of appetite from different players in both the EU and UK side to continue working together, he said, but “cooperation on climate and energy needs political space”.

“Energy” actually only gets two mentions in May’s speech: under point 10, on “the best place for science and innovation”, she welcomes continued collaboration with European partners including on “clean energy”. Second, at the end, she highlights the UK as a crucial export market, also for Europe’s energy sector. “Climate” isn’t mentioned at all. […]

How likely is a pragmatic way forward? Gaventa says that one of the biggest barriers he sees to any form of the UK’s continued participation in the internal energy market – or the EU ETS for that matter – is its rejection of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). “For markets to succeed, you need independent adjudication,” he points out.

There will have to be a debate about a dispute resolution mechanism – and we all remember how easy those are to negotiate from the free trade agreement negotiations with the US (TTIP) and Canada (CETA).

A second problem is that the UK may be unwilling to sign up to EU ETS and internal energy market rules if it no longer has a say in their development. Froggatt sees opportunities however in May’s words about keeping parts of a Customs Union with the EU. “It’s about specific deals to be part of certain areas,” he explains. “The energy sector and especially electricity should be looked at separately.”

Legal opinion is divided on whether leaving the EU also means that the UK has to leave the Euratom Treaty, but Froggatt expects the UK to do so.

On the climate front, experts say that it can no longer be assumed that the UK will stay part of the EU’s overall emission reduction goals (e.g. a 40% emission cut by 2030). In a new blog post this week, researchers at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics say that without the UK, other Member States will have to pick up the slack or the EU will miss its 2030 target.

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