EU Referendum: Energy and Environment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:19 pm on 12th July 2016.

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Photo of Phil Boswell Phil Boswell Scottish National Party, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill 3:19 pm, 12th July 2016

I thank my hon. Friend for his commendable comments. I agree with him wholeheartedly.

Matthew Bell, the chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change, said:

“if you don’t have CCS, then you really need to virtually completely decarbonise your transport sector and completely decarbonise your heating sectors, in order to deliver on the 2050 ambition”.

Since both these sectors seriously lag behind in the decarbonisation of energy production, this seems extremely unlikely, to say the least. The underlying message of the changes is that the cost of subsidising renewable energy has been underestimated by the Government. That has led to the Treasury’s withdrawal of the green deals for consumers, housebuilders and energy investors alike. The Government have instead put all their eggs in the dual basket of fracking and nuclear energy, neither of which looks to be progressing very smoothly, and that makes achieving the UK’s mandatory climate change targets highly unlikely. My hon. Friend Callum McCaig and Caroline Lucas, who is no longer in the Chamber, touched on the problems of Hinkley C. As anyone can see, this history of successive short-termist UK Governments continuously moving the legislative goalposts can only undermine investor confidence. Brexit will only serve to exacerbate that problem further, which was a point well made by Barry Gardiner, who is no longer in the Chamber.

On energy security, last year I was a member of the European Energy Market Design Committee. The Committee was at a very early stage of engagement, but the potential for cross-European energy sharing among EU members via interconnectors and the like was striking. I wonder if that Committee will even sit again this year, given Brexit. It should be obvious to all that an efficient interconnector network and shared energy design across Europe would benefit all. When the wind is blowing in Scotland, as it invariably does, the energy that is generated can be used elsewhere. If there is no wind, but the sun is shining in Spain, we can share that mutual benefit. I sincerely hope the Committee does meet again, but we have just made things much harder for ourselves as we try to co-ordinate European efficient energy supply from without the EU.

I should say at this point that Scotland has no intention of suffering the fallout from Brexit, the ramifications of which are still to be understood. As my hon. Friends the Members for Aberdeen South and for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Calum Kerr) both pointed out, we are staying in Europe.

I, like most sensible politicians, turn to independent experts for opinions and answers to questions about complex matters such as the natural environment. My points about the circular economy have been well made by other Members, so I will skip on to my next point.

The Institution of Environmental Sciences is currently conducting a survey of its members, in which it asks:

“What impact do you think the UK’s decision to leave the EU will have on environmental protection?”

An overwhelming 81% of highly educated, experienced environmental professionals consider that

“Without binding EU law, it is likely environmental regulations will be weakened or scrapped in the UK.”

A pre-EU referendum survey of members of the Institution of Environmental Sciences showed that 68% were in support of the UK remaining in the EU. The UK has been disproportionately successful in securing funding for research projects in the environmental sciences and other sectors due to the strength of our science base. Under the seventh framework programme, FP7, which ran from 2007 to 2013, €1,704 million was spent on projects falling under the environment theme. Of the 4,055 projects funded under the FP7 environment theme, according to the Community Research and Development Information Services, 603 were based in the UK, which made us second only to Germany, with 645.