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EU snub! Alok Sharma dodges meeting in Brussels while Brexit talks sour

4 min read

Sharma hoping to 'twist arms' at climate conference says expert

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The UK climate change minister met with UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa in Bonn on Monday. Mr Sharma then travelled to Brussels but only to change trains on his way back to London, leaving no time to meet with any EU officials. The British minister spoke to EU climate envoy Frans Timmermans last week.

Mr Sharma, who will preside over the COP26 climate change summit in November, said the meeting needs to “consign coal power to history”.

With six nations accounting for over 80 percent of planned new coal projects globally, winning commitments to cancel those projects could help his summit quest.

The proposed new coal power capacity globally has plunged 76 percent since the Paris Agreement in 2015, with 44 countries agreeing to end new projects, according to a report by think-tank E3G released today.

Asia however is still at the centre of the world’s remaining pipeline, which means action by six countries alone – China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Turkey and Bangladesh – could remove over four-fifths of planned projects before construction.

Ending the use of coal – the most polluting fossil fuel – for power production has been a key focus for climate change activists, leading to funding and insurance for new projects rapidly drying up.

Swiftly ending coal use is seen as vital to global goals of capping global warming at “well below” 2 degrees Celsius and ideally 1.5C and avoiding swiftly worsening climate threats such as harsher storms, floods, wildfires and crop failures.

But coal remains a mainstay for power generation in Asia, which accounts for 75 percent of global coal demand, according to the International Energy Agency.

Countries with significant coal deposits or energy systems reliant on the fuel have been slow to abandon it, tied down in part by the costs of abandoning still-functioning plants and mines or reluctant to break commitments to new plants.

China also remains a major funder of new coal energy, even as declining prices for solar and wind power make green energy more competitive than coal in most parts of the world.

Mr Sharma’s snub comes as the UK and Brussels continue to lock horns on the Brexit Northern Ireland protocol.

UK Brexit minister David Frost on Monday said that the European Union must move in negotiations over the trading arrangements in Northern Ireland or Britain may unilaterally suspend the so-called “protocol”.

Under the protocol, Britain agreed to leave some EU rules in place in Northern Ireland and accept checks on goods arriving from elsewhere in the United Kingdom, in order to preserve an open land border with EU member state Ireland.

Britain has asked for “substantial and significant change” covering areas including the movement of goods into Northern Ireland, standards for goods and governance arrangements, and a treaty framework that is not policed by the European Court of Justice.

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Frost has warned of “cold mistrust” in relations with the EU if they do not move, but on Friday, Frost’s EU counterpart, Maros Sefcovic, rejected the idea of renegotiating the deal.

Frost raised the prospect of triggering “Article 16” of the protocol, which allows either side to dispense with its terms if they are proving unexpectedly harmful.

“They would be making a significant mistake if they thought that we were not ready to use Article 16 safeguards if that were to be the only apparent way forward to deal with the situation in front of us,” he said at the House of Lords.

“If we are to avoid this situation, there needs to be a real negotiation between us and the EU.”

Britain last week said it planned to extend post-Brexit grace periods on some goods imports to Northern Ireland in a move designed to give London and Brussels more time for talks about trade with the province.

Frost said there needed to be space for negotiations.

“I don’t in fact take Commissioner Sefcovic’s words as a dismissal of our position, I take them as an acknowledgement of it,” Frost said.

“But I also take it as a fairly clear indication that there is more to be done.

“So I do urge the EU to think again.”

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