On Thursday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson airily announced a new U.K. commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions in this decade, just as the EU was in a continental quagmire.
The bloc is expected to settle on a target to cut emissions by 55 percent by 2030, but the year-long political grind to get there is delicately balanced, with Poland and others yet to be convinced about the new goal.
On December 10-11, European leaders will meet in Brussels to try and agree, but a bitter struggle between member states over the EU budget threatens to overwhelm the talks. That would leave Europe with nothing to show when Johnson hosts a U.N. climate summit the next day.
Meanwhile, on Thursday morning, the U.K. government’s independent climate panel publicly recommended the U.K. raise its target to 68 percent — from the 40 percent it set with the EU in 2014. That evening, Downing Street breezily adopted it.
“Today’s target is the first set by the U.K. following its departure from the EU, demonstrating the U.K.’s leadership in tackling climate change,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.
That claim to be leading the fight is galling for some Europeans.
“It’s great the U.K. still shares the same objectives as the ambitious EU member states,” said an EU diplomat, noting that the U.K. also wants to reach net zero emissions by 2050. “Unfortunately it also shows what is lost as a result of Brexit: their influence and its ability to lead.”
As host of next year’s COP26 summit, the U.K. i