Green Brexit? Report accuses UK of failing to effectively replace EU energy systems policy

Brexit is making the UK's transition to net-zero "more complex", a new report has warned, stating that Covid-19 has further delayed efforts to set strong decarbonisation policies for an independent UK.

Under the UK and EU's agreement, mutual changes to energy policy can be made until summer 2026

Under the UK and EU's agreement, mutual changes to energy policy can be made until summer 2026

Published by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC), the report on ‘Brexit Implications for UK Decarbonisation Objectives’ concluded that “there has not been enough time nor the right political space to establish effective replacement” to the numerous energy and climate rules and regimes that previously applied to the UK as an EU member state. This is partly due to Covid-19.

The overarching conclusion is that the UK has not yet adequately replaced the majority of climate and energy rules and policies from the EU. While the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) between the two parties “creates a policy floor for the UK”, the report questions whether all measures are properly implemented and, whether, if not, the government will be properly held to account.

More detail on the specifics then follows. While recognising the progress that the UK has made on energy policy post-Brexit, such as the launch of packages such as the Energy White Paper, which prepared the UK for the launch of its own emissions trading scheme (ETS) and ring-fenced money for low-carbon generation, the UKERC report identifies a number of remaining policy gaps.

On the ETS itself, the report urges the government to accelerate action to get it past the temporary format in which it currently operates and to provide more clarity on future carbon pricing, which will need to be net-zero compatible. Ministers also need to clarify whether the UK ETS will ever be linked to the EU ETS – the world’s largest. It had been hoped that a link would be established before the UK scheme launched but this did not happen.

The report also compels the UK government to move beyond the current ‘interim’ explicit trading arrangements applicable to interconnectors between the UK and mainland Europe. Under the TCA, this move must be completed by April 2022. So far, the UKERC claims, two planned interconnectors have been suspended.

Above all, the main call to action from the report is for the UK and EU to avoid waiting until the last minute to determine the new terms of their energy relationship. There is a deadline of 2026 per the TCA.

“Having a predictable relationship and efficient use of shared systems and infrastructure will ultimately benefit both the UK and EU in meeting their net-zero commitments,” the UKERC said in a statement.

The UKERC is one of many organisations pushing for greater clarity and ambition in the UK’s climate and energy-related policymaking ahead of COP26. Earlier this week, the Confederation of British Industries (CBI) – the UK’s largest business group – urged ministers to “fill in the blanks” of existing plans to reach net-zero “as rapidly as possible”. Specific action points were the publication of the Heat and Buildings Strategy, Transport Decarbonisation Plan, Hydrogen Strategy, and the Treasury's Net Zero Review ahead of Parliament’s summer recess. A similar call to action was then made by E.ON the next day.

Sarah George



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