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Theresa May accused of being ‘Donald Trump’s mole’ in Europe after UK tries to water down EU climate change policy

Leaked documents show UK wanted to change EU targets on energy efficiency and renewable energy that would not apply until after the expected date for Brexit

Ian Johnston
Environment Correspondent
Monday 29 May 2017 10:39 BST
The PM has remained resolutely silent on Donald Trump’s denial of climate science
The PM has remained resolutely silent on Donald Trump’s denial of climate science (Getty)

Theresa May has been accused of being Donald Trump’s “mole” in Europe after leaked documents showed the UK attempted to water down EU policies designed to tackle climate change.

While other European politicians have made clear to the Republican billionaire that his denial of climate science is a problem, the Prime Minister has remained resolutely silent on the issue.

Her visit to Washington – when the two leaders were pictured holding hands – was widely regarded as an attempt to build a strong relationship with Mr Trump, despite concerns about his attitudes towards women, migrants, Islam, Vladimir Putin’s Russia and other issues.

The leaked documents, obtained by Greenpeace’s Energydesk, show the UK tried to make a policy designed to improve energy efficiency – reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making goods cheaper to run for consumers – voluntary rather than mandatory.

It also essentially argued EU member states should be allowed to make no progress at all towards a 2030 target on renewable energy until the last moment.

Barry Gardiner, the shadow International Trade Secretary, who speaks on climate change issues as a result of Ms May’s decision to scrap the dedicated climate change Cabinet post, told The Independent: “After the G7 [meeting], the word was put out that six countries were on track, pursuing the objective of the Paris Agreement. Only one country, America, was out of step.

“That simply has been proven not to be the case by this leak, which shows Donald Trump actually has a mole within the EU and that mole is the UK.

“The UK is, behind the scenes, trying to water down the commitments and make them voluntary instead of mandatory.”

He said the changes proposed by the UK were not “cosmetic” – to make targets “aspirational”, rather than legally enforceable, was “ridiculous”.

“It’s a substantial change,” Mr Gardiner said. “To say all this is just non-binding… is to completely move away from that fact that Paris has set in place clear ultimate objectives and we have to be on a trajectory to meet that.

“The whole basis on which we in the UK have set in place our trajectory to meet our targets is on a legally binding basis.

“That’s why we have given the Committee on Climate Change that independent status to make these recommendations which are then set in law through the whole process of setting carbon budgets.”

He pointed to the Government’s failure to produce an effective plan to reduce carbon emissions in line with a “carbon budget” announced in 2011.

“I think the UK loves the rhetoric of being a world leader on climate change but we are living off the reputation that was built up in 2008 when we [Labour] put through the Climate Change Act,” Mr Gardiner said.

“The way in which the Government has really failed to do anything following the third Carbon Budget is really of huge concern. We have now waited since July 2011 to have an implementation plan.”

ClientEarth, a group of environmental lawyers who have twice successfully won court orders forcing the Government to improve illegally poor plans to tackle air quality, has raised the prospect of further legal action over the Government’s failure to produce an effective Emissions Reduction Plan.

In one of the leaked documents, the UK proposed watering down an EU plan to improve energy efficiency by 30 per cent by 2030, reducing the target figure to 27 per cent and making it “indicative” rather than “binding”.

Another submission showed the UK also wanted to remove a requirement for a “linear” trajectory towards a 2030 target for renewable energy after 2021.

This would mean that states would be able to spend years without doing anything then suddenly catch up just before 2030.

The document says: “Technologies, particularly newer and less established technologies, do not roll out at a linear pace.

“We do not consider that linear progress to the target should be expected or determined at the EU and, rather, that it should be for member states to determine based on their plans.”

Requiring a linear trajectory towards the 2030 target would not have prevented states from doing more than was required.

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Jonathan Gaventa, director of environmental think-tank E3G, told Energydesk that the UK’s actions were difficult to understand given the policies would not apply until after the expected date for Brexit.

“This smells of obstructionism,” he said. “The UK is p*****g off countries it needs as allies.”

Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party, added that the documents were “a strong indication that, unless we fight back, Britain could become an offshore pollution haven where the environment is in the firing line of an aggressive Government with a blind and brutal deregulation agenda”.

The Conservative Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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