Brexit calls EU climate action into question as top MEP quits

The European Union's plans to reform its broken carbon market have been thrown into turmoil after the British lead MEP on the bill to revise the Emissions Trading System resigned after the UK voted to leave the bloc.

Ian Duncan, the only Conservative MEP for Scotland, tendered his resignation just hours after it became apparent that Britain had chosen Brexit.

Duncan, who won his seat in the 2014 European Parliament elections, wrote to Giovani La Via, the Chairman of the Environmental Committee.

“I believe it would be sensible for the dossier to be taken forward by a member who can steer the important reforms to their conclusion,” he said. “It is with quite some regret that I take this step. I believe passionately in the need to address climate change.”

It remains to be seen if other British MEPs will follow Duncan’s lead. His resignation was greeted with regret by many in Brussels, with his name even trending on Twitter in Belgium.

Revamping the world’s biggest scheme for trading carbon emissions allowances is a vital part of the EU being able to meet the Paris Agreement commitments it made to cap global warming at the UN Climate Change Conference.

The Paris Agreement – in the process of ratification –  will now need to be rewritten.

Speaking yesterday, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Christiana Figueres said: “From the point of view of the Paris Agreement, the UK is part of the EU and has put in its effort as part of the EU so anything that would change that would require a recalibration,” she said at a press conference.

edie content partner EurActiv exclusively reported that British conservatives are planning to call a general election in November to hand a mandate to a new ‘Brexit government’.

The leading figures of the Leave campaign are likely to have significant roles but, as well as being Eurosceptic, some are also climate-sceptic. That has fuelled further uncertainty over the future of British climate action.

Environmental NGO Client Earth’s chief executive James Thornton said the result left uncertainty.

“Now as the UK prepares to go it alone, we have no idea which laws will be retained since those who campaigned for Brexit did not have a united position. They failed to make clear during the campaign which environmental laws would be kept.”

Richard Black, director at London-based think-tank the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit said: “On climate change there has been speculation that an independent UK would scrap measures to tackle the problem.

“These measures are mostly enshrined in British law, however, and it seems likely that the strong cross-party majority in favour of reducing emissions in both Houses of Parliament would seek to defend them.”

James Crisp, EurActive

This article first appeared on, an edie content partner

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