Brexit 'will not change' UK's climate ambition :government official

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain’s plan to leave the European Union will not affect its commitment to curb carbon emissions and combat climate change, a senior British government official said on Tuesday.

The country’s 2016 decision to leave the EU bloc has raised fears that it will fail to deliver on its legally binding target to cut emissions by 80 percent on 1990 levels by 2050.

But existing national legislation will dictate Britain’s climate ambition and “that will not change with Brexit”, said Nick Bridge, special representative for climate change at Britain’s foreign office.

“Climate change is the greatest diplomatic challenge ever,” he told an audience of policymakers, businesses and charities at an event on climate change diplomacy at Imperial College London.

“We’re at the point where extreme events like storms destroy entire economies and regions.”

Britain and other countries have a “moral duty” to act on climate change, Bridge said, adding that it would require more investment in renewable energy like wind and solar as well as efforts to put a price on pollution.

Pedro Tie, head of environment and climate change at the Brazilian embassy in London, said climate change was not just an environmental issue, but an economic and social one too.

“Developing countries in particular face the challenge of decoupling their economic growth from an increase in carbon emissions,” he told the event.

Brazil is doing this by boosting its use of biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel which pollute less than fossil fuels, he said.

Bridge said the British government plans to use its diplomatic expertise to ramp up global action on climate change.

“We’re ready to offer every advice and encouragement to see the United States back into the Paris Agreement,” he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump last year said he would pull his country out of the 2015 Paris Agreement, arguing that staying in would cost the United States trillions of dollars in lost jobs and damage to its industries.

However, Trump left the door open to renegotiating the pact.

The pact set a goal of keeping the rise in average global temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, and ideally to 1.5 degrees. The world has already warmed by about 1 degree Celsius.