A Brexit chill blew yesterday through ‘global Britain’s international trade policy on clean energy, as a little known collection of senior advisors urged trade minister Liz Truss to view national mechanisms supporting clean power and decarbonisation as barriers to international free trade.
Truss’ unelected counsellors the Board of Trade published their advisory note, cautioning the Remainer-turned-Leaver secretary of state against ‘green protectionism’ both at home and abroad, as her ministry continues to negotiate foreign trade deals.
“Green protectionism” implemented at home would make it harder for the UK to export and import low-carbon technologies, says the group’s paper.
If the EU introduces its own cross-border carbon taxes on externally sourced goods, ‘global’ Britain must not follow suit, the note maintains.
The Board of Trade includes Tony Abbott, Australia’s former prime minister, a convinced free trader and libertarian, plus City of London lord mayor William Russell, and former Labour leader Patricia Hewitt.
Besides the export of energy-related technologies, and accounting for carbon emissions in such goods, the advisors paper draws on environmental examples from agriculture, particularly emissions from livestock.
Truss’ delivery last month of a post-Brexit trade deal with Abbott’s native Australia was heavily criticised by UK farming groups for its supposedly excessive concessions, which allegedly elevate cheapness of product over harder-to-quantify variables such as food standards for British consumers and UK jobs.
In the paper Truss says, “Free enterprise is key to the UK’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, to tackling climate change, and to securing a stronger and freer trading environment that directly supports jobs in regions and nations across the UK.”
Greenpeace UK policy director Dr Doug Parr was scathing. “Currently, half of the UK’s total carbon emissions are imported. So it’s misleading to suggest that just harnessing a free market will help tackle the climate crisis.
“We’re all for green trade“, Parr went on, “but only if it comes with restrictions on trade in fossil fuels and the rights polluting companies have to protect their interests and profits.
“Liz Truss’ cavalier approach to trade seems unlikely to do that. So this report is heading for being little more than greenwash.”