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Politics trumps the environment!

September 9, 2021 3:05 PM

poi9 (Photo by Photoholgic on Unsplash)We have made no secret of the fact that the recently concluded trade agreement with Australia is a bad deal. The benefits primarily accrue to the Aussies and the failure to provide protections for British farm products from produce grown to lower standards using chemicals banned in the UK seemed to risk damaging rural economies such as ours ( see here)

At the time we speculated the deal was as much about desperation of brexiteers to sign a deal ( any deal) which showed we could operate outside the EU particularly as the chances of a much vaunted US continued to recede. The fact the economic benefit to the UK was hardly measurable wasn't really the point

This desperation for a deal has just been further underlined by a story broadcast on Sky News who had obtained an email, from a senior UK government official that showed the more explicit reference to temperature goals was cut in order to seal the deal with the Australian government.

According to Sky News the trade deal - which was agreed in principle in June - was set to contain references to the Paris goals of limiting global heating to 2C above pre-industrial levels, with an aspiration to a lower limit of 1.5C. Instead, the references to the temperature limits were left out.

The email says: "As flagged in my note to Lord Frost, the Business and Trade Secretaries were due to speak yesterday. "We haven't yet seen the formal read out, but we understand the conversation took place and the Business Secretary has agreed that, in order to get the Australia FTA over the line, DIT can drop both of the climate asks (ie on precedence of Multilateral Environmental Agreements over FTA provisions and a reference to Paris Agreement temperature goals.)"

The change makes the deal weaker than the Brexit agreement with the EU and other FTAs negotiated by the UK. The Paris deal requires countries to set goals in order to limit global warming to well below 2C, preferably to 1.5C.

Australia is nominally committed to the 2015 Paris agreement but Scott Morrison, the prime minister, has been heavily criticised for showing little enthusiasm for climate action.

The Australian government did not deny the report. Dan Tehan, Australia's minister for trade, tourism and investment, told the Guardian: "The Australia-UK free trade agreement will deliver more jobs and greater access for businesses and workers in both countries, all of which will drive economic growth.

With the UK government chairing the climate change conference in Glasgow in a couple of months where they will be seeking to get governments to commit to faster de-carbonisation this leak is a real embarrassment

As John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK points out "Signing an Australian trade deal with action on climate temperature commitments secretly removed is the polar opposite of everything Boris Johnson publicly pledged and rips the heart out of what the agreement stands for. It will be a race to the bottom, impacting on clean tech sectors and farmers' livelihoods," "There should be a moratorium on trade deals with countries like Australia until they improve on their weak climate targets and end deforestation."

We know we shouldnt be surprised by this duplicity but we are saddened that the government continues to say one thing and do another