Amber Rudd: Post-Brexit Britain will not step back from climate leadership

Energy Secretary Amber Rudd made a surprise appearance at the Business and Climate Summit in London today (29 June) to insist that the UK will not "turn its back" on the global battle to mitigate climate change, despite the nation voting to leave the European Union (EU) last week.

The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) Secretary took to the stage at London’s Guildhall to inform delegates that the UK remains “fully committed” to climate action and delivering a clean energy supply for the British people, during this “uncertain time” caused by the shock Brexit vote.

With concerns growing about the effects of Brexit on the historic Paris Agreement, Rudd was quick to calm those fears and outline how the UK’s position as a leader in the low-carbon movement was unlikely to change post-Brexit.

“The decision to leave the EU is of historic significance,” Rudd said. “As a Government, we are fully committed to delivering the best outcome for the British people – and that includes delivering the secure, affordable, clean energy our families and business need. The challenges to our environment remain the same. That commitment has not changed.

“The decision raises a host of questions for the energy sector, of course it does. Climate change has not been downgraded as a threat. It remains one of the most serious long-term risks to our economic and national security.

“And the UK will not step back from that international leadership. We must not turn our back on Europe or the world. Our relationships with the United States, China, India, Japan and other European countries will stand us in strong stead as we deliver on the promises made in Paris. At the heart of that commitment is the Climate Change Act.”

Fifth Carbon Budget

While a host of ministers have resigned in the aftermath of last week’s vote, Rudd used her time at the Summit this morning to echo the words of UNFCCC’s Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres in saying that climate action would not waver as a result of Brexit.

Rudd outlined that renewables investment had increased by 42% since 2010, and is now able to operate in markets without the aid of subsidies, and that in 2014, 30% of Europe’s energy investment took place in the UK.

Despite ongoing delays to the much maligned Hinkley Point, Rudd reiterated that nuclear will form a large part of the UK’s clean energy future. She also stated that an extra 4GW of offshore wind capacity could be added to the UK’s 10GW capacity in the 2020s, providing “the costs come down”.

As part of DECC’s “ambitious” five year plan, Rudd also highlighted that annual support for renewables is “expected to double during this Parliament to more than £10bn”.

And, with the UK’s political landscape currently undergoing a radical makeover, Rudd declared that the much anticipated 5th carbon budget would be outlined on Thursday (30 June), which could potentially establish carbon reductions commitments of 54% or more.

“I know many of you are keenly awaiting the outcome of our deliberation on the 5th Carbon Budget,” Rudd said. “You can expect the Government’s decision tomorrow. It is an important building block of our economy’s future and you would expect us to take our time to ensure we got the decision right.”

Commenting on Rudd’s speech, Aldersgate Group’s executive director Nick Molho said: “Coming a few days after the outcome of the EU referendum, it is positive to hear Amber Rudd highlight the importance of continuing to tackle climate change. As shown by the 195 countries that adopted the Paris Agreement in December, climate change is an issue that is of major concern to leaders around the world.”

‘Clear signals’

Meanwhile, as Rudd was speaking at the Business and Climate Summit, UK Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom appeared at a crucial Energy and Climate Committee hearing on investor confidence. Leadsom – who had campaigned to leave the EU – reiterated the government’s support to complying with the Climate Change Act, which calls for the carbon budgets to be established en route to an 80% emissions reduction by 2050.

Reacting to both of the commitments, Greenpeace’s director John Sauven said: “Both ministers are willing to reassure Chinese and French investors in Hinkley and other new nuclear power stations but renewables businesses are simply not receiving a fraction of the political or financial support as EDF and the Chinese state-owned companies.

“We look forward to seeing the announcement of the fifth carbon budget tomorrow which we hope will continue to set Britain on pathway of renowned international leadership on tackling climate change. But more must be done to provide vital support for innovative new renewable technologies, and send a clear sign to the market at this uncertain time.”

Matt Mace

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