Richard North, 16/04/2017  

There can hardly be anyone with two braincells to rub together who is not aware that the Open Europe study on the costs of EU regulation has been thoroughly discredited.

Even the organisation itself downgraded its own initial estimates of savings, which it originally put at £33.3 billion for the top 100 regulations. It ended up with £12.8 billion a year, based on what it considered "politically feasible" deregulation.

How feasible that would be is a matter of speculation. It would require tackling "controversial areas", involving changing social employment and workers' rights regulations and a huge shift away from our climate change obligations.

In the latter event, Open Europe (as elsewhere) had failed to take account of the international dimensions of climate change, and the fact that requirements are mandated not only by the EU but also by Climate Change Act. This would not necessarily change just because we leave the EU.

What price then Harry Phibbs of Conservative Home? He piles in with exactly the self-same figure of £33.3 billion that Open Europe has already disowned.

This seems classic groupthink. It doesn't matter how slender the facts are. If they suit they argument, they will be used.

Phibbs's hook though is something even more absurd – a report in the The Daily Telegraph. This has it that "Government sources" (anonymous, of course) are telling the paper that the EU's target, under the EU Renewable Energy Directive, is likely to be scrapped after Brexit.

Missing the point entirely, is the international dimension, set out in the recital to the Directive, which tells us that:
The control of European energy consumption and the increased use of energy from renewable sources, together with energy savings and increased energy efficiency, constitute important parts of the package of measures needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and comply with the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and with further Community and international greenhouse gas emission reduction commitments beyond 2012.
There we have exactly the point – the Directive is a red herring. And in any case, if - as this select committee report points out - "the UK misses, or reneges on its commitment to, the 2020 renewables targets", this "will undermine confidence in its commitment to future targets, including the 2050 decarbonisation objectives of the Climate Change Act 2008".

In other words, in order to meet the statutory target set by UK law, the Government must meet the targets set by the Renewable Energy Directive, even if it no longer applies. As it is, the Government is already under pressure to deliver an effective Emissions Reduction Plan. It may end up in court if it doesn't come up with something credible.

As to the application of the Directive, it has been transposed into UK law and is given effect by the Promotion of the Use of Energy from Renewable Sources Regulations 2011 and the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations (Amendment) Order 2011. For the target to be abandoned, both these laws would have to be repealed.

That is not to say that these laws should not be repealed – they should. The 2050 decarbonisation plan is uniquely damaging and should be abandoned altogether. But it is facile to pretend that getting rid of the law is primarily – if at all – an EU issue.

Clearing out the Climate Change Act, and thereby relieving the Government of its statutory obligations, requires the approval of the Parliament. And, given that only five MPs voted against Act (including the two tellers), there is a huge majority to overturn.

However, there is a bigger game afoot. At a point where we are about to embark on Article 50 negotiations, the very last thing the UK needs to be doing is making grandiose statements about deregulation, exposing us to criticisms of "environmental dumping".

This has even greater implications on the international scene. The UK is a signatory to the UNFCCC, has signed up to Kyoto and has been in the lead on climate change issues. There is more at stake than just our relationship with the EU. Rolling up these international deals is going to take some care. 

It is going to take a little while longer to get rid of those wind farms.

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