Britain will not renege on its climate change commitments, energy and climate secretary Amber Rudd told investors on Wednesday, just days after her country voted to quit the European Union.
“While I think the UK’s role in dealing with a warming planet may have been made harder..., our commitment to dealing with it has not gone away,” she told finance and business leaders at the 2016 Climate and Business Summit in London.
On Tuesday, the UN’s outgoing climate chief Christiana Figueres, told delegates “there is going to be quite a bit of uncertainty, transition and volatility for at least two years,” following the Brexit vote.
Rudd -- who campaigned for the “remain” camp -- urged “leave” figurehead Boris Johnson, a fellow Conservative and likely contender for the post of prime minister, to affirm that he is not a climate sceptic.
The position of any candidate on this issue “will be absolutely central to who I support,” she said, prompting a burst of applause from summit participants.
Johnson has, in the past, questioned whether human actions really are contributing to global warming.
Rudd sought to allay worries that the Brexit vote would soften Britain’s leadership role in the international campaign against dangerous climate change, or dampen clean energy investment by, or in, the UK.
How Britain will renegotiate, for example, its relationship to the EU’s internal energy market has emerged as a key concern.
Rudd’s department of energy and climate change is due to unveil new goals Thursday for slashing greenhouse gas emissions.
A cross-party bloc of lawmakers have urged the government to accept an ambitious and binding target to cut emissions by 57% by 2032 from 1990 levels.
This would stand as one of the most ambitious carbon-cutting goals of any major economy in the world.
The current European Union goal, approved well before the Brexit vote, is to cut emissions by 40 percent by 2030 from 1990 levels.
Rudd renewed vows to boost government support for renewable energy, including up to four gigawatts of offshore wind power, and the construction of a new fleet of small, modular nuclear reactors.
“At least half of our innovation spending will go towards nuclear research and development,” she told the meeting.
French energy giant Electricite de France, or EdF, is seeking to build three such reactors in Britain.
Rudd said she had spoken with the EDF chief executive since the Brexit vote, and there was “no change at all in the decision to proceed”, though final approval is pending.
“New nuclear is going to be an incredibly important part of delivering our low-carbon future in the UK.”