European Union

ClimateWire's Chemnick discusses impact of Brexit on U.K. climate goals, Paris Agreement

With news breaking overnight that the United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union, there are immediate questions about the U.K.'s ability to stick to its climate commitments and the impacts of Brexit on the Paris Agreement. On today's The Cutting Edge, ClimateWire reporter Jean Chemnick discusses the challenges ahead for the United Kingdom and Europe on climate and energy policy.


Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to The Cutting Edge. Breaking news overnight. The U.K. has voted to leave the European Union. Joining me today to discuss the impacts on the country's climate commitment is ClimateWire's Jean Chemnick. Jean, big news. This is a significant move that could ultimately lead to a much smaller United Kingdom. How at risk are the commitments made by the U.K. in Paris?

Jean Chemnick: Well, the U.K. as it is now is part of the European Union's commitment of 40 percent by 2030. And there's a question about how that will be divided up now. You hear a lot of different things, but the U.K. might just take responsibility for its portion of that or the European Union could keep, you know, responsibility for it and the U.K. would have to come up with its own commitment to Paris. Whatever happens there, though, this is a country that has been kind of a leader on climate change for decades, and so there's the sense that it wouldn't walk away from Paris. So at least at the moment, this probably doesn't endanger the larger deal.

Monica Trauzzi: However, Prime Minister David Cameron announced he will resign, and his successor could ultimately have some different ideas about how to approach climate change. What are the political dynamics that we see at play?

Jean Chemnick: Well, there is the question of who succeeds him, and if this gives kind of a boost to some of the Euro skeptics who were behind the Brexit initiative, then that could ultimately, you know, start to change U.K. politics on this issue. There have been polls. The voters who backed Brexit were significantly more skeptical of climate science than the average British person, so it's too soon to tell, basically.

Monica Trauzzi: This could be the first of several exits from the European Union. Is the Paris Agreement ultimately at risk?

Jean Chemnick: There is concern about a domino effect. I mean, the U.K. wasn't even the most hostile to the European Union of all the countries in the union. There are, you know, 27 other countries, and a lot of them have movements as well, or at least people thinking about wanting to leave the compact. You know, and I know this is something that the establishment of Europe is extremely concerned about. You know, if the E.U. really disintegrates, I think that that might have implications for the Paris deal. Of course, Europe was an extremely progressive voice throughout the negotiations, has always been. You know, if it's falling apart or significantly shifting, that might have an effect going forward.

Monica Trauzzi: And moving on to a story that ClimateWire broke this morning, that U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres will announce her candidacy to become U.N. secretary-general. Could that ultimately usher in a period of greater focus on climate change for the U.N.?

Jean Chemnick: Yeah, I mean, she joins a fairly full field at this point of possible candidates. She's one of many, but the issue of climate change has been pretty much absent from the race this year to succeed Ban Ki-moon. And this will mean that one of the architects of Paris who has climate change as a major component of her resume will be in the race, and that is bound to elevate it as an issue as all of these candidates kind of get vetted.

Monica Trauzzi: All right. Very interesting to watch. Great reporting as always. Thank you for coming on the show. Nice to see you today.

Jean Chemnick: Thank you.

Monica Trauzzi: More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.

[End of Audio]



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