Should 'Clexit' Follow Brexit?
By Vijay Jayaraj
On the first day after Brexit, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sacked the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP26) summit chief Claire Perry O'Neill.
The post for the 2020 Glasgow COP26 will now be occupied by the new Business Minister Alok Sharma. Alok Sharma is no climate alarmist. He’s known for voting 15 times against motions towards climate action.
How far will Johnson go to protect British energy consumers’ interests against global climate policies? What should he do to guarantee energy renaissance in a post-Brexit United Kingdom?
After years of stalling, Britain’s parliamentary leaders finally upheld voters’ decision to leave the European Union. February 1, 2020, was Britain’s Independence Day.
Nigel Farage, of the Independent Party, a champion of Brexit, said in his final speech at the EU parliament, “This is it, the final chapter, the end of the road, a 47-year political experiment that the British frankly have never been very happy with.”
Not everyone is happy. Nicola Sturgeon leads the Scottish National Party and is determined to leave the UK and join the European Union (EU).
But a mere exit from the EU does not mean the UK is completely free from implementing policies of European origin. Technically, its domestic energy aspirations are still governed by restrictive international treaties like the Paris agreement.
The Paris climate agreement requires the UK to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, which would mean higher electricity prices — passed on by its renewable sector — for British energy consumers.
Though Johnson appears to favor the Paris agreement, he will find it challenging to continue doing so in coming months as Britain tries to negate any economic slowdown that may arise from Brexit.
Johnson should not forget the American model. After Donald Trump became president of the United States in 2017, he announced that the U.S. would exit the Paris agreement. He formally initiated the steps in 2019.
Meanwhile, the U.S. became a global energy superpower. It continues to rely on existing coal plants and the booming natural-gas sector. Doing so would have been a challenge if the U.S. were remaining in the Paris agreement.
In contrast, the UK has reduced coal consumption drastically in the past few years, and natural-gas extraction remains an elusive exercise. On top of this, as a fallout of Brexit, the UK is bracing for a new “carbon border tax” that the EU plans to introduce.
The UK is currently a part of the EU’s emissions-trading scheme but is expected to leave soon. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is keen on taxing carbon imports, including against the UK when it leaves the EU’s trading scheme.
The U.S. has suggested that any such tax from the EU will be met with a stern response. Though Johnson has pledged not to play by the EU trade rules, it remains to be seen how successful he will be.
As far as non-EU trade relations are concerned, the UK will directly benefit from Brexit. As Theodore Bromund puts it, Brexit will enable the UK to “regain diplomatic independency, recover powers to negotiate free-trade deals, and restore the democratic sovereignty of the nation.”
But the UK cannot afford for restrictive climate policies from Brussels to block its new and ambitious economic path. That would destroy its energy aspirations and put millions at risk of being unable to afford basic energy services.
If Britain really wants to function as an independent country, free from the uncomfortable authoritative control of the EU, it should reject EU-centric restrictive energy policies and ridiculous carbon border taxes. Indeed, it should embrace what many are now calling “Clexit” — joining America in leaving the Paris agreement.
For the sake of British commoners, Johnson should extend his UK-first principle to the country’s energy sector. Doing so would enable the UK to become energy independent. But it would require formally exiting the Paris agreement and rebuilding the UK’s energy sector.
Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England) is a research contributor for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.