February 25, 2020 / 2:58 PM / a month ago

No backsliding on climate goals, carbon price, EU tells Britain

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Britain must uphold EU climate change targets and environmental standards after the post-Brexit transition period, the bloc will say in negotiations to strike a deal on future ties.

FILE PHOTO: Water drips from an ice sculpture of penguins during a protest by students against climate change in central Brussels, Belgium February 7, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

European Union member states on Tuesday adopted a negotiating mandate for the executive European Commission.

It will begin talks with Britain next week to try to agree a partnership deal for when the transition period with the outgoing member state ends on Dec. 31.

The text of the EU mandate says the deal, covering trade and economic cooperation, as well as other policy areas, would require minimum commitments from Britain on climate change and environment, including targets “where relevant”.

Britain and the European Union have both been vying for climate leadership and say the issue of global warming is a political priority.

Environmentalists, however, are concerned Britain could find itself under pressure to accept lower standards as it strives to agree deals with trading partners beyond the European Union.

Under the status quo, Britain contributes to EU-wide climate targets. It also has legally-binding domestic goals to cut its greenhouse gas output which, if maintained after Brexit, would be aligned with the minimum EU aims.

The EU is seeking agreement by the end of this year on increasing its greenhouse gas target to a cut of 50%-to-55% below 1990 levels from an existing goal of a 40% reduction by 2030.

Britain’s fifth carbon budget, which restricts the greenhouse gases it can emit from 2028-2032, would require the country’s emissions in 2030 to be around 57% below 1990 levels.

CARBON PRICING

The EU mandate also says Britain must maintain a carbon pricing system of “at least the same effectiveness and scope” as the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS).

The EU ETS is the bloc’s flagship mechanism to tackle global warming by charging for the right to emit carbon dioxide. Under the scheme, European power generators, industrial emitters and airlines running intra-European flights must buy permits to cover their emissions.

Britain plans to launch its own carbon market in January 2021 and to link it to the EU’s.

While the EU mandate agrees to consider this, it says any linkage must ensure the integrity of the EU carbon market and maintain a level playing-field.

Non-alignment on carbon pricing could open Britain up to EU carbon border measures. The EU executive is drawing up plans for a carbon border adjustment mechanism, which would see the bloc impose costs on imports from countries with less stringent climate policies.

The aim is to shield Europe’s energy-intensive industries against cheaper imports from countries where firms do not face carbon costs.

Britain will publish its negotiating stance for its post-Brexit relationship with the EU on Thursday.

Editing by John Chalmers and Barbara Lewis

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