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Brexit puts European low carbon transition at risk say energy stakeholders

Image: Getty.

Image: Getty.

Brexit will put technological investment, Ireland’s single electricity market and Europe's low carbon transition itself at risk according to a group of heavyweight investors, trade associations and private businesses.

In a letter signed by senior representatives from the likes of EDF, the Electricity Association of Ireland and Unilever, the group has called on negotiators from both the UK and the European Commission to agree a ‘comprehensive Climate and Energy Chapter’ as part of their talks.

The coalition claims that both parties have previously demonstrated international leadership in decarbonisation and in tackling climate change, such as in the talks that led to the Paris climate agreement.

However, it argues that a ‘conventional’ EU Free Trade Agreement would not be able to address climate issues such as cooperation on emission targets, clean energy projects of common interest, climate and energy diplomacy and carbon pricing – unlike a Climate and Energy Chapter.

Such a document would need to ensure several long-term agreements are made to safeguard the UK and EU’s ongoing cooperation across climate related matters, beginning with the implementation of the Paris agreement.

The group, which has also been backed by Energy UK, Renewable-UK and WindEurope, has also called for an agreement that no tariffs on energy trading or efficient trading arrangements across interconnectors are introduced, as these would increase the cost of the low carbon transition.

Ireland’s integrated single electricity market (I-SEM), set to go live next month, would face “a possibly existential risk” if cross-border electricity tariffs were applied the group claims.

Signatories would also expect to see continued cooperation on developing markets for shared balancing services, such as the TERRE initiative which has drawn attention recently after the UK approved the regulation needed to require participation in the EU platform despite no agreement on continued interaction with the Internal Energy Market (IEM) as yet.

Other priorities for talks include agreements on both sides to maintain high environmental standards post-Brexit to avoid a “race to the bottom” and provide certainty to businesses; to prioritise delivering zero tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade between the EU27 and UK in low carbon goods and services; and co-investment in clean energy infrastructure and R&D projects of common interest.

Diplomatic cooperation on energy and climate change and the UK’s continued participation in clean energy infrastructure and R&D projects of common interest should also be ensured.

“Dynamic and forward-looking cooperation between the EU and the UK on climate change and energy policies, standards and clean energy infrastructure would keep costs down and increase the pace of the low carbon transition,” the letter states.

Debate has begun to ramp up around the impact on energy and climate issues from Brexit as concerns of a no deal scenario continue to build.

A “world-leading, independent, statutory body” proposed by Theresa May to replace the European Commission’s power to hold the UK to account over climate change after Brexit has been criticised for not including remit over climate change.

Meanwhile, today’s letter has also included warnings that consumer energy bills could rise as a result to potential tariffs on interconnectors, of which four already connect Britain to Europe and Northern Ireland. On top of the 4GWs available through this connections, at least 7.7GW from seven more are planned between 2019 and 2022.

Government papers uncovered last month by Buzzfeed News suggested that climate change, energy, and environmental standards are among more than 80 subject areas expected to be impacted by a 'no-deal' Brexit.

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