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Green Panic: Miliband Urges Cameron To Ratify Paris Deal Before Quitting As PM

Roger Harrabin, BBC News

Prime Minister David Cameron has been urged to ratify the Paris climate agreement before leaving office. Labour’s former climate change secretary Ed Miliband said “climate sceptics” might try to derail the deal if they gained positions of power following the EU referendum.

Government sources told BBC News that the Brexit vote would not alter ministers’ plans on the agreement.

But the sources did not offer any firm timetable for its ratification either.

A deal to attempt to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than 2C was agreed in Paris at the end of last year after two weeks of intense negotiations.

About 175 countries have signed up to the deal to cut carbon emissions. But each of those nations has to go a step further by formally “joining” or ratifying the deal in the form of a communication to the UN.

Already some analysts are warning that Brexit will spell the end of French government support for the Hinkley nuclear station.

But most of the key decisions affecting the UK will be taken by the next prime minister and the people chosen to run the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) and the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Of the front-runners for the Conservative leadership, Boris Johnson has given contradictory messages on climate change over the years. He promised to make London a low-carbon energy leader, but has also cast doubt on climate science.

Michael Gove previously spoke in favour of tackling climate change, but then tried to trim the school curriculum by dropping mandatory climate change lessons – a plan that was beaten down.

Theresa May doesn’t appear to have spoken publicly on the climate.

Among other possible leadership candidates, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd and Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom both supported increased ambition for the UK on climate change whilst imposing huge cuts on renewables subsidies.

Stephen Crabb has called climate change the greatest challenge of this and future generations.

Jeremy Hunt says Conservative promises on climate change are sincere, and has generally voted with the government on climate change.

‘Massive’ challenge

Mr Miliband told me: “I take David Cameron at his word that he cared about these issues – but we don’t know who’s going to succeed him.

“He should ratify the agreement before he leaves office because we don’t want to end up with a climate change denier or sceptic as prime minister who tries to renegotiate the whole thing.

“It’s the biggest single issue facing our world; the biggest single issue facing my kids as to whether we step up on this. We have a massive, massive challenge and we’ve got to get on with it.

“The French have ratified [the Paris agreement] and as I understand it’s perfectly in our gift to get it done. There is a majority in the House of Commons for it – so we should get on and do it.”

Only a handful of MPs voted against the Climate Change Act in 2008, and most Conservative MPs broadly support decarbonisation. But there are known ties between Euro-scepticism and climate scepticism.

Lord Lawson, who founded the climate sceptic pressure group Global Warming Policy Forum, was involved in the Leave campaign. Several Euro-sceptic and climate sceptic groups are housed in the same Westminster property, 55 Tufton Street.

And the overlapping groups say both climate change policies and the EU interfere with markets and restrict choice.

The Leave campaign complained that EU renewables targets have pushed up the cost of energy and warned that the UK’s energy security will be reduced if coal plants are shut.

They said that if the UK left the EU, domestic energy bills could be cut by removing VAT on home heating and lighting.

Mr Miliband said he would support action to scrap “regressive” VAT on bills, but he said a big campaign to insulate homes should be introduced too.

His fears over the impact of Brexit on climate policy have been widely voiced by environmentalists. Much of our energy and environmental policy is formed in Brussels – including rules on state aid for energy; targets for carbon reduction, energy efficiency and renewables; and new product standards.

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