Despite May’s G20 overture to Trump, her government is preparing a divorce from the EU that will have profound negative consequences for the climate

Donald Trump and Theresa May are set to meet in Hamburg on the sidelines of the G20 summit being held on Friday and Saturday (Photo: White House)

UK prime minister Theresa May will reportedly champion the Paris Agreement on climate change when she meets Donald Trump this weekend at the G20 summit in Hamburg.

As she does, it is worth bearing in mind that, in the wake of the US president’s decision to pull out of the Agreement, the UK’s divorce from the EU is the last thing the international community needs.

Brexit could have a profoundly destabilising impact on global momentum to address climate change; and the harder the Brexit, the greater the magnitude of these potential repercussions.

Within the EU, the UK has historically been a key engine of strong climate policy, aligning itself to the clean and green grouping of Member States, including Germany and the Nordic countries.

The UK has consistently taken on more than its fair share of the collectively agreed EU decarbonisation objectives. This was the case for the Kyoto commitment period between 2008 and 2012, and in the post-Kyoto period that we are in currently. Most importantly, the UK is pencilled in for a significantly above average share to the EU’s pledge to the Paris Agreement, a 40% reduction in emissions by 2030.

The UK has also been a strong supporter of the EU’s flagship climate policy, its carbon trading scheme, which covers over 45% of all heat trapping emissions from 31 countries. The scheme has flagged badly in recent years, with carbon prices hovering around €5, far too low to promote low-carbon investments. To drive up the price, the UK called for the EU to permanently cancel a large number of the surplus carbon credits, going well beyond other reform proposals on the table.

The so-called Visegrád grouping of Eastern European countries, led by Poland, has frequently opposed the UK’s ambition and reform proposals.

The ‘hardness’ of the final Brexit will determine the magnitude of the repercussions. In a soft Brexit scenario, where the UK chooses to remain in the EU’s…