Maitland Green: Our weekly update—14 July 2017
Brexit has dominated the UK’s environmental agenda this week, as the government published the “great repeal bill” on Thursday with aims to consolidate EU legislation into UK law, wherever applicable. Green campaigners have put forth amendments already, saying that Brexit threatens to leave major gaps in the UK’s environmental protections. The chairs of select committees were also chosen this week, with notable mentions made for the green community. Newly elected BEIS select committee chair Rachel Reeves has promised to develop climate change action initiatives to create good jobs and to work to secure a sustainable and cost-effective energy policy. With electric vehicles now becoming the norm, London’s black cabs are moving to keep pace, as the London Taxi Company—now the London EV Company—announced that its new electric cars will be able to operate for around 70 miles at zero-emissions. The rapid increase in demand for electric cars is due to see peak electricity demand surpass the capacity currently available by 2030.
In China, automakers are set to produce 49 out of the 103 new electric car models to be launched globally by 2020, in line with the country’s continued efforts to accelerate their switch to battery power. Billionaire philanthropist Michael Bloomberg and the governor of California also announced a plan to quantify efforts by US states, cities and businesses to drive down greenhouse gas emissions, furthering the non-governmental climate change action in the United States in the absence of leadership from President Trump. However, the US president yesterday hinted at a possible renegotiation of the Paris Climate Agreement while in France for Bastille Day.
Our Maitland Green insight this week looks into the possibilities for the marine environment, the seafood sector and fisheries post-Brexit, carrying on from the discussion held last week with members of the agri-environment and fisheries sectors.
- A sharp increase in electric vehicles on Britain’s roads could see peak electricity demand jump by more than the capacity of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station by 2030.
- Labour MP Rachel Reeves has been elected as the new chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee, and has promised to establish “sustainable growth” and action on climate change as committee priorities.
- London’s black cabs are due for a green makeover after the London Taxi Company announced a rebrand at the unveiling of its new electric model.
- Eleven major banks have pledged to seek ways to address the financial risks of global warming, after warnings from Bank of England Governor Mark Carney.
- An Oxford economist Dieter Helm—a vocal critic of the price of renewable power—is the government’s preferred choice to head a review of the financial cost of energy in the UK.
- Campaigners from organisations including Greenpeace, the National Trust and Friends of the Earth have called for an overhaul of the repeal bill to protect against gaps in environment legislation post-Brexit.
- Chinese automakers are on track to produce nearly half of all new electric car models to be launched globally by 2020, according to a new forecast released on Wednesday.
- A report to a UN ocean conference in New York pointed out that more than 60% of the ocean has no conservation rules, leaving the majority of the ocean prone to damaging industrial activities such as fishing and deep-sea mining.
- A new study has found that the single greatest impact that individuals can make in fighting climate change is having one less child, which could save 58 tonnes of CO₂ for each year of a parent’s life.
- Former New York City mayor and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg and California governor Jerry Brown announced Wednesday a plan to quantify efforts by US states, cities and businesses to drive down greenhouse gas emissions.
- Australia’s longstanding affinity for coal seems to be waning as state governments move to buy back mine licences and embrace renewables amid rising community opposition to the coal industry.
- Donald Trump has hinted to a reversal of his decision on the Paris Agreement on climate change, saying that “something” could happen regarding the deal.
On Wednesday night, the chairs of the select committees were chosen. Labour MP Rachel Reeves was elected to the Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy select committee, promising to develop sustainable growth and climate change policies that help create new and well-paid jobs. Neil Parish was re-elected to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee, promising to hold the government to account on their imminent new air quality plan. Lillian Greenwood was elected to the Transport select committee, promising to ensure that the government keeps pace with the rapid pace of technological innovation in the sector.
On Thursday morning, oral questions for transport were discussed in the House. Steven Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay, asked for the transport minister to join him in congratulating the owners of the C&C taxi firm in his constituency for replacing all 14 of their diesel vehicles with electric vehicles. “Theirs has been hailed as the greenest taxi firm in the country” Double said, “Does he agree that more taxi firms should follow their example?” The minister agreed, saying that “the future is certainly for low-emission vehicles.”
Opinion of the week
Warnings From Antarctica—Fen Montaigne, The New York Times
Fen Montaigne comments on the significance of the timing for the massive iceberg break-off from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf reported this week, amidst Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement. “Talk to scientists who have worked in the Arctic, Antarctic or the world’s glacial zones for decades, and what they keep coming back to is that they have witnessed monumental physical changes in these once-frozen regions within their professional lifetimes.”
While scientists are still debating how much responsibility climate change actually has in the breaking off of the iceberg, Montaigne says that leading polar ice experts have already pointed to the event as a sign of the ice shelf’s instability. Ice shelf instability could eventually lead to wider glacier instability which could see global sea levels rise up to 17 ft. Leading glaciologist John H Mercer predicted the instability in Antarctica, but underestimated the pace at which the changes would happen—like many others who’ve tracked climate change throughout the years. Without urgent action to bring down carbon dioxide emissions, it’ll be “almost impossible to imagine” the level of change that the future will hold.
What to Expect From Post-Brexit Policy: New Challenges and Opportunities for Fisheries, Seafood & the Marine Environment—Maitland Green Insight, Yasmin Perez
A poll during the EU referendum found that a shocking 92% of fishers backed the Leave campaign, with calls from the fishing industry being made to politicians to “take back our fish”. This near-consensus was based on the widely perceived failure of the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and the under-allocation of fish quotas to the UK.
However, since the outcome of the referendum, industry stakeholders have become more nuanced with their views on the CFP. Regardless, when Brexit happens, the UK will also be leaving the CFP, leaving opportunities for fisheries, the seafood industry, and stakeholders in the marine environment, to come up with better governance and transparency structures, while also paying more attention to environmental protection efforts.
After Brexit, the UK will emerge as an independent coastal state under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and will be responsible for the sustainable management of the fisheries within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ)—which will cover an unprecedented 200 nautical miles (nm). The UK government will, from then on, also be responsible for coordinating and managing sustainable trans-boundary fish stocks with neighbouring EU states.
However, a number of problems could arise with the establishment of an exclusive economic zone around the UK’s territory. Denmark has contended that it should retain its entitlement to fishing rights in British waters as it has for over 30 years. The UK could firmly dispute this claim as a consequence of its EEZ, but doing so may damage relations with a number of countries that continue to hold important seafood markets for the UK. Maintaining these relationships is important, not only for EU fishers fishing in UK waters, but also for UK fishers who land over 40% of their catch in the EEZs of neighbouring EU and EEA states.
Instead, a viable option could be a negotiation between the UK and neighbouring countries about varying levels of foreign access within 12-200 nm of the UK coast and, at the same time, ensuring the withdrawal from the London Convention—which predates the CFP and which would otherwise allow for some foreign access post-Brexit to the UK’s 6-12 nm zone. This would allow for an exclusive UK fishing zone to be formed within 12 nm of the UK. With this deal, the UK could hope that tariffs will not be placed on exports of British seafood products.
Turning to the seafood sector, the UK’s fish processing industry—with an annual turnover of over £3bn—is more socio-economically valuable than the UK’s catching sector, and as such, has its own priorities post-Brexit. World Trade Organisation rules will come into effect post-Brexit, which could see reductions in trade at 30%-90%. To ensure continued market access, zero or low tariffs must be arranged between the UK and EU. Avoiding non-tariff barriers by complying with EU regulations would also be crucial to ensure quick transit of fresh seafood to the EU. The sector would also require continued access to a skilled workforce, which is heavily sourced from non-UK EU countries.
Leaving the EU also means that the UK will no longer be subject to the EU’s environmental legislation and concern about the marine environment post-Brexit has rightfully been raised. To ensure the continued (and perhaps improved) protection of the marine environment, ensuring sustainability, effective governance and management, along with ecosystem protection were all identified as top priorities for industry stakeholders. Charles Clover, the executive director of the Blue Marine Foundation, called for more ambition from the environmental community, saying that it was “very odd” that the government is currently more ambitious.
The massive undertaking in transferring and adapting EU legislation into UK law should not be underestimated, and will thus take time and effort to be done properly. While Brexit could be an opportunity for devolved administrations to bring about reform in fisheries management to better suit the needs of different regions, the question of how far the UK wishes to diverge from the CFP remains unknown.