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UK failure to co-operate with EU on energy post-Brexit will ‘complicate’ emissions reductions

Any failure on the UK’s part to continue to co-operate with the European Union on energy and climate change post-Brexit would threaten to unnecessarily complicate the country’s carbon reduction plans.

That is the conclusion of think tank Green Alliance, which today releases a new report and proposes a ‘Paris co-operation track’ for the UK and the EU to adopt as Brexit negotiations pick up speed.

The report will only serve to ratchet up pressure on the government to pay strong considerations to energy and climate issues as it contends with Brexit negotiations. Last week the Prince of Wales’ Corporate Leaders Group and others addressed Number 10 calling on the government to embrace the “current moment of change” and embed new environmental principles into UK law.

It pushes five key areas which the think tank has said are at risk should the UK’s relationship with the EU over energy issues deteriorate.

Interconnectors predictably feature heavily, as the UK’s power links with Europe are responsible for 7% of the country’s electricity demand but is strongly expected to grow. National Grid’s Future Energy Scenarios, released earlier this month, placed interconnection between Europe and the UK at circa 17% of total demand under the ‘Two Degrees’ scenario – the only scenario proposed by the operator that would see the UK meet its Paris Climate Agreement targets.

More than 7GW of additional internonnector capacity is planned to be operational by 2022, although it remains unclear if Brexit will affect the new European connections.

Consumers would also stand to benefit from cheaper bills should interconnector capacity be allowed to flourish, all of which would be placed at risk should the UK continue its current course and leave the EU internal energy market (IEM), Green Alliance has said.

Also at risk is Northern Ireland’s energy integration with the Republic of Ireland; access to favourable finance terms from the European Investment Bank; maintenance of product standards, particularly in vehicles; and the delivery of carbon budgets out to 2030.

The Green Alliance has said that these risks must be alleviated, and has recommended doing so by reconsidering its hard line stance on the role of the European Court of Justice, which was a key point of contention during last week’s talks.

The UK should also look to retain access to the IEM according to the think tank, an ask which will be far easier said than done if previous reports which have argued that remaining in the market is incompatible with the UK’s current stance on Brexit.

Chaitanya Kumar, senior policy advisor at Green Alliance, said that the UK needs “sustained co-operation” to remain at the forefront of international climate leadership.

“It will also maximise the benefits of low carbon trade with Europe and support the shared vision of long term energy security. Not least, it will secure clean and cheap energy for UK consumers,” he said.