Concerns over the future of UK energy policy have quickly emerged as a direct result of last week’s vote to leave the European Union, with trade organisations and independent commentators calling on government to show it remains committed to the low carbon agenda.
Following a 52% vote in favour of Brexit, questions have been raised over the future of British decarbonisation as many of existing commitments have been negotiated within the EU bloc. This includes the pledges made in Paris at COP21 in December, which saw the UK agree to tackle climate change alongside other member states.
It is likely this will have to be renegotiated to give the UK its own individual targets, while the UK’s existing domestic legislation will continue to affect policy going forward.
This has prompted industry leaders to call on the government to confirm the adoption of the fifth carbon budget. This was proposed by the Committee on Climate Change last year to advise the government on how to meet interim emissions targets for 2028-2032 on its way to cutting out 80% of emissions by 2050.
The report’s ‘max’ scenario included scope for as much as 40GW of solar by 2030 – almost four times current levels – and the government is required to legislate the level to which it plans to meet this by the end of this month.
Dr Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association, said: “Energy policy must be a priority for the Government now, with industry needing reassurance and ministerial clarity on priorities. The first in this list must be confirmation of the fifth carbon budget, which will hopefully give some confidence in the long-term direction of UK energy policy.”
Energy failed to rise to the forefront of the Brexit campaign on either side, despite secretary of state Amber Rudd and energy minister Andrea Leadsom taking prominent roles on either side of the debate.
Dustin Benson, head of energy and resources at Green Alliance, told Solar Power Portal: “The environment, climate change and energy weren't really on the agenda for the vote. There is of course a whole series of political questions which are opened up and what we need is the government to confirm that it is as committed as it ever has been to the UK's low carbon journey.”
Martin Baxter, IEMA’s chief policy advisor, added: “An immediate test of the Government’s commitment to environment and sustainability lies in the adoption of the UK’s Fifth Carbon Budget. We urge the Government to adopt the independent Committee on Climate Change recommendation for a 57% emissions reduction, giving a clear and positive signal of its long-term environmental commitment.
With the deadline for budget imminent, there is strong consensus that what the government does next will determine its ambitions on decarbonisation. Nick Molho, executive director of the Aldersgate Group claimed that adopting the latest carbon budget must now be among “essential priorities for the government.”