Lord Deben: Brexit poses a 'huge threat' to Paris Agreement

Madeleine Cuff
clock • 2 min read

Chair of the Committee on Climate Change claims Brexit would be a major setback to global action on climate change

A British decision to leave the European Union represents a major threat to the success of the Paris Agreement in Europe, according to the Chair of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) Lord Deben.

Speaking at an event in London late last week hosted by the think tank IPPR, Lord Deben warned 'Brexit' would be a major setback to climate action, hampering both Britain and the European Union's ability to decarbonise.

"I'm quite clear that if Britain left the European Union it would put this back, as far as us and the rest of the European Union, very, very considerably," he said of efforts to slash emissions across the bloc. "Brexit is a real threat to Paris, and we have to accept that because we cannot allow ourselves to go backwards in the mechanisms which we have created for working together."

If Britain leaves the EU, Lord Deben warned it could alleviate the pressure on governments to meet decarbonisation targets. "You have a much stronger argument about not keeping up with the Jones' if you don't belong to the Jones, if you're not part of the family," he said. "I note that most climate change deniers are believers in our leaving the European Union, and most of those who want to leave the EU are not prepared to accept what the real demands that climate change places upon you [are]."

He also pointed out that Brexit would threaten Britain's ability to shape the bloc's mechanisms for decarbonisation. He suggested strong British leadership within the EU represents one of the most effective ways for Britain to drive the international decarbonisation agenda. "The thing is the European Union is the largest trading group in the world - If it uses its power to set international standards then the world changes," he said. "What we need is an increasing power for Britain - greater sovereignty, a stronger voice, and that we get inside the European Union."

Although he described himself as optimistic about the potential of the Paris Agreement to deliver a fundamental change in the global economy, Lord Deben said there are a number of threats that pose a real risk to its success.

Alongside Brexit, he suggested a more robust system of carbon accounting is needed to ensure governments give an accurate picture of their progress to decarbonisation. He also stressed the dangers of complacency, suggesting some policymakers could be "led astray" by encouraging figures that imply the low-carbon transition is happening with little government intervention.

Lord Deben's comments come as the government is preparing to set out how it will achieve emissions reductions under the fifth carbon budget, covering the period 2028-2032. Due in June, the plan for the fifth carbon budget is set to be one of this year's key tests of the government's UK strategy for decarbonisation post-Paris.

This article is part of BusinessGreen's Road to Paris hub, hosted in association with PwC.

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