The UK government has provided an update on its position regarding Euratom and its policy on climate change in the event it does or does not secure a deal with the European Union on Brexit.
It said the UK would “have all the international agreements that the UK requires to ensure uninterrupted cooperation and trade in the civil nuclear sector” ready by April 1, when the country may leave the European Atomic Energy Community, and that the country is on track to leave Euratom at the same time the UK leaves the EU, on March 31, 2019.
It has also issued a statement discussing how no Brexit deal would affect climate change regulations, emissions trading, energy using products, and ecodesign and energy labelling. “A scenario in which the UK leaves the EU without agreement remains unlikely given the mutual interests of the UK and the EU in securing a negotiated outcome,” it said.
In its third quarterly update to Parliament of the government’s progress on the UK’s exit from the Euratom Treaty, covering July to September, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) says the government remains on track to have in place all the international agreements that are required, for policy or legal reasons, to ensure continuity of nuclear trading with third countries by the end of March 2019. The most recent progress came with the signing of a new UK-Australia Nuclear Cooperation Agreement on 21st August, it said.
It noted that, in its White Paper, published on 12 July, the government had set out its approach for seeking a close association with Euratom – specifically, through the negotiation of a Nuclear Cooperation Agreement between Euratom and the UK that is “more comprehensive and broader” than any existing agreement between Euratom and a third country.
A public consultation and associated workshops on the draft Nuclear Safeguards Regulations, setting out the detail of a new domestic civil nuclear safeguards regime, took place between 9 July and 14 September. The government is analysing responses and expects to lay regulations in Parliament by the end of this year, it said.
BEIS also said that the Office for Nuclear Regulation “remains confident” it will be able to deliver a domestic safeguards regime. This will enable the UK to meet its international commitments by 29 March, in light of good progress made in developing the UK State System of Accounting for and Control of Nuclear Material, including the Safeguards Information Management and Reporting IT System, and recruitment and training of safeguards inspectors.
In a statement to Parliament on 12 October, BEIS Secretary of State Greg Clark said the UK’s Euratom exit would be delayed until January 1, 2021, if a transition agreement between the UK and EU is agreed to before the UK’s March 2019, exit from the EU. Negotiations over such a transition agreement have been continuing since the UK formally triggered its two-year notice period to leave the EU on 31 March 2017, but have not produced an agreement.
Meanwhile, John Kalish, acting director general of the Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation Office, has said Australia is working on a new nuclear deal with the UK for when it leaves the EU. He told the Australian parliament that a new deal will have to be done with the UK to mirror the old one with the EU. Under the old deal and the proposed one, the UK can only sell the uranium on to certain countries.
“Retransfers can only be made to third parties that have a nuclear cooperation agreement with Australia,” Kalish told a parliamentary committee today, according to News.com.au.
Climate change advice
BEIS has responded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s publication on 8 October of its special report on the impact of global warming of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, by asking for advice on: setting a date for achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions across the economy; whether the UK needs to raise its 2050 target of cutting emissions by at least 80% relative to 1990 levels to meet international climate targets set out in the Paris Agreement; how emissions reductions might be achieved across the economy; and the expected costs and benefits in comparison to current targets.
Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry today wrote to Lord (John) Deben, chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Climate Change, making a formal request for the committee’s expert advice on setting the UK’s long-term emissions targets.
In her letter, Perry notes that 2018 marks ten years since the passage of the Climate Change Act 2008, which aims to reduce the UK’s emissions by more than 40% since 1990 while growing the economy by more than two-thirds. She asked Lord Deben for an update to the advice his committee provided in October 2016, as part of its report on UK climate action following the Paris Agreement.
“This advice will inform consideration of the UK’s long-term targets, and should include options for the date by which the UK should achieve a) a net zero greenhouse gas target and/or b) a net zero carbon target in order to contribute to the global ambitions set out in the Paris Agreement, including whether now is the right time for the UK to set such a target,” she wrote.
Perry also announced the launch of Green GB & NI Week.
“This makes the UK one of the first in the G7 to formally explore setting an even more ambitious target than its current one,” BEIS said. “Green collar” jobs could reach two million by 2030, generating up to GBP170 billion (USD224 billion) in annual exports for UK businesses, it added.
Lord Deben welcomed the government’s formal request and said his committee would consider how and by when the UK can effectively eliminate carbon emissions from its economy. It will also look at whether the current 2050 target is “still fit for purpose”.
“We will be consulting widely, with citizens, industry, business and academia and expect to deliver our advice within six months,” he said.
In another statement, BEIS said negotiations are progressing well with the EU and that both sides “continue to work hard to seek a positive deal”. It added: “However, it’s our duty as a responsible government to prepare for all eventualities, including ‘no deal’, until we can be certain of the outcome of those negotiations.”
It lays out a series of technical notices to allow businesses and citizens to understand what they would need to do in a ‘no deal’ scenario, so they can make informed plans and preparations.
The UK is “deeply committed” to domestic and international efforts to tackle climate change, it said, adding it was a party “in its own right”, as well as through the EU, to international climate change agreements, including the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.