Brexit looms large over EU climate policies

From Nature:

Maciek Narbrdalik/The New York Times/eyevine

The Belchatow coal power plant in Poland: many eastern EU countries may be reluctant to take on extra emissions cuts after Brexit.

The European Union’s climate-change agenda could lose momentum as a result of the bloc’s split with the United Kingdom, policy experts say.

Wrangling over the terms of Brexit seems likely to delay the EU’s ratification of the Paris climate agreement, which aims to stabilize greenhouse-gas emissions, says Oliver Geden, head of the EU Research Division at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin. “Brexit might be an excuse for some EU countries to withhold their signature,” he says.

And because the United Kingdom has long been a proponent of strong climate policies within the EU bloc, the departure could strengthen the position of European countries that are reluctant to take forceful climate action.

“The UK not being part of the negotiating mix means there is likely to be less pressure for ambitious targets and ensuring that the EU delivers on its Paris agreement commitments,” says Martin Nesbit, a policy expert at the Institute for European Environmental Policy in London.

Before the Paris talks, the EU had pledged to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030, relative to 1990 levels. As part of that pledge, industries participating in the EU’s emissions trading system were to reduce emissions by 43%, and other sectors — such as transport, agriculture and construction — were to achieve a 30% cut (both relative to 2005 levels).

The latter target is most exposed to Brexit. Last week, the European Commission proposed the amount by which each of its 28 member states — including the United Kingdom — should cut 2005 emissions domestically by 2030, depending on individual states’ economic strength and potential to reduce emissions. The proposals, which member …

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