The bad news is that upcoming climate and energy legislation in the EU will almost certainly be postponed as a result of Brexit, writes Brook Riley of Friends of the Earth Europe. But the good news is that Brexit will provide an opportunity to make it clear to EU citizens that ambitious climate and energy policies are key to a better future.
Don’t underestimate just how shocking Brexit is for the EU institutions (and for yours truly). There will be paralysis in the Commission – and remember, most proposals come from there. There will be lack of leadership. That’s not a criticism. It’s inevitable.
It seems likely that EU leaders will take a tough(ish) line with the UK ‘pour décourager les autres’, while avoiding anything which could annoy the remaining member states. Pax Europa will be judged far more important than legislative results. This means upcoming climate and energy legislation will almost certainly be postponed (to be clear: that’s postponed, not scrapped).
Negotiators joke that the only thing member states agree on is that their neighbours should do more than them
With regard to climate policy, the Commission was due to release its draft effort sharing decision – the plans for sharing out the 40% by 2030 greenhouse gas target among the 28 member states – in a few weeks’ time. But it’s a hot dossier. Negotiators joke that the only thing member states agree on is that their neighbours should do more than them.
In any case, the Commission will have to redo the maths now that the UK has voted to leave. And nobody knows when the UK will actually go (least of all the Brexiters) or whether it will still share in the overall emissions target. So it looks like the effort sharing decision will be put on ice for the foreseeable future.
Negotiations on the emissions trading system will probably be frozen too. The European Parliament’s lead negotiator, the British MEP Ian Duncan, has already resigned from the dossier (for the same reasons as Commissioner Lord Hill).
The list goes on. The Commission was planning to increase the energy efficiency target after the summer and to revise renewable energy and market design legislation in December. It seems likely these proposals will also be delayed (although – here’s a thought – the Commission could always take advantage of Brexiters’ horror of limp toast, increase the energy efficiency target and goad the UK into pulling the trigger on Article 50).
What concerns me most is this: without strong EU leadership, where will we be on climate action and the energy transition? NGOs and all progressive players have a duty to help work through the crisis. At the same time, however, we should try and turn the situation to our advantage.
From now on we will win or lose depending on our success at convincing EU leaders and citizens that climate and energy policies must play a central role in the attempt to reboot Europe
Delaying the climate proposals gives more time to restate the vital importance of steeper emission cuts. For six months we have been struggling (and failing) to show that the EU must increase the ambition of its climate and energy targets to comply with the Paris Agreement objectives. I suspect we have been too technical.
From now on we will win or lose depending on our success at convincing EU leaders and citizens that climate and energy policies must play a central role in the attempt to reboot Europe. In a post-Brexit interview with Bild, Jean-Claude Juncker said “What is crucial now is that we focus very precisely on what Europe can do for people: stimulate investment, create jobs and together ensure the safety and security of our citizens”.
We can do this. Last week, Commissioner Arias Cañete echoed MEP Theresa Griffin’s passionate argument on the importance of energy efficiency: “for every 1% improvement in energy efficiency, 3 million more homes can be properly renovated, 7 million people lifted out of energy poverty”.
These are more than just numbers. They are the key to a better life for tens of millions of Europeans – and to a fresh start for the EU. Yes, climate and energy plans are in disarray because of Brexit. But everything will depend on what we make of the situation. I for one find that very inspiring and encouraging.
Brook Riley (@pzbrookriley) is climate and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe. See his author archive here.