The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change tells business summit in London that Government’s commitment to climate change has “not gone away” following last week’s referendum result to leave the EU

Amber Rudd addresses climate change summit post-Brexit

Speaking at the Business and Climate Summit on Wednesday (June 29), Amber Rudd sought to quell businesses and investor nerves, saying the Government remained firmly committed to the Climate Change Act. She confirmed the Government would approve a world-leading carbon emissions reduction target for the early 2030s by tomorrow – the deadline for accepting the so-called fifth carbon budget. And she promised she would continued investment in the low carbon economy by securing a strong Brexit deal for the UK. But the Remain campaigner also admitted that UK climate action “may be made harder” by the “historic” decision last Thursday to leave the EU.

“As you will know, I argued fervently against the decision. But a clear majority disagreed with me and those who campaigned with me,” the Secretary of State said.

But she added: “Climate change has not been downgraded as a threat. It remains one of the most serious long-term risks to our economic and national security […]the UK will not step back from that international leadership. We must not turn our back on Europe or the world.”

Dispelling industry fears the EU referendum would cause the UK government to put off the Committee on Climate Change’s fifth carbon budget, Rudd said: “You can expect the Government’s decision tomorrow. It is an important building block of our economy’s future.”

And on negotiations to leave the EU, the Secretary of State said: “We will work towards the best deal possible for Britain.”

Her speech followed an address yesterday by Christiana Figueres to business leaders at the same summit, in which the UN climate chief urged the UK to “stay calm. “It’s absolutely clear that should article 50 be triggered […] there’s going to be quite a bit of volatility and uncertainty for at least about two years.”

“However, let us remember that the Brexit vote was not about climate change, it was not about should the UK continue to modernise its industry and its manufacturing, and it was certainly not a vote about innovation, which is fundamentally the opportunity that we have by acting on climate change,” said the outgoing chief of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

But the same day, Germany’s Siemens said it would not be making any further investments into UK wind power for the time being due to uncertainty caused by last week’s Brexit vote. “I expect that [investment] will stall until we can work out exactly what the [new government’s] plan is, how we can participate in EU research programmes, and until all the issues around tariffs and trade have been sorted out,” Juergen Maier, the firm’s UK CEO, told the Guardian.

Elswhere, industry bodies called on the Government for clarity over its plan following the EU referendum.

“The Government must communicate and demonstrate that the UK is open for business and investment, including by keeping critical infrastructure projects and spending decisions on track,” Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general, said on Tuesday.

On Friday, Julie Hirigoyen, CEO, UK Green Building Council, issued a statement to members, writing: “Brexit is already sending economic shockwaves through the construction and property sector […] Arguably now more than ever we need to minimise future risk, reduce costs, add value for clients, generate new commercial opportunities and ensure we have the best people working as productively as possible. A sustainable built environment is fundamental to these objectives.”

Martin Baxter, chief policy advisor of IEMA, the the worldwide membership body for environment and sustainability professionals, added: “The referendum vote in favour of the UK leaving the EU raises significant questions for businesses, professionals and the wider public on environmental protection policy.

“In the lead-up to the referendum, IEMA members were overwhelmingly of the view that being a member of the EU is good for business and good for the environment. There was a real concern that environment and climate policy risked being watered down if the vote was to leave. Environment and sustainability professionals will now look to the future with some sense of uncertainty.”

A survey of business leaders by the Institute of Directors found that a quarter planned to freeze recruitment following the Brexit vote, while almost two-thirds said the vote was negative for their business.

The FTSE 100 plunged by 8.7 per cent when it opened on Friday morning as the results of the Brexit vote, causing the pound to slump, but had recovered its losses on Wednesday. However, the more domestically focused FTSE 250 was only up 3.2 per cent by today, following post-referendum losses of 7.7 per cent, the _FT _reported.

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