Brexit would rob the UK of its key role in climate diplomacy

Text of speech given at Pulse of Europe, Bath, 7th January 2018

Friends of Bath, Friends of Europe, Happy New Year!

Thank you very much for organizing this event today. It is a pleasure to be here with you.

A special thanks to Alison Born for the invitation to speak and her relentless efforts to tell the truth about Brexit.

My name is Luca and I live and work in Italy on climate change and energy diplomacy.

As for many other young European and British people, Brexit could be the most impactful development of my political life, and the single most important one in British foreign policy since the Second World War.

Time will tell if Brexit turns out to be the worst unforced mistake ever in British history.

What we know, is that it comes at a time of unprecedented global challenges. First and foremost, the challenge of climate change.

Climate change is an existential threat to humanity as it fundamentally undermines our ability to maintain prosperity and security as we know it today.

Our cities and our health are increasingly affected by more frequent and intense weather and pollution events. They put pressure on the infrastructure, the air, the ocean and the land that sustain our lives and keep us safe.

Globally, climate-driven food and water insecurity are threatening the livelihood of millions of people, with repercussions for all of us, from mass migration to rising conflicts over natural resources.

Since 2009, when the international climate negotiations stalled in Copenhagen, European climate diplomacy has played a critical role in rebuilding the foundation of global climate action.

The historical 2015 Paris Agreement was a significant achievement of multilateral diplomacy. This was made possible by a major effort of the EU to put domestic climate policies in place, be an effective coalition and bridge builder on the international stage, as well as a major donor of climate finance, especially to the poorest and most vulnerable countries. This demonstrates in practice that ambitious domestic and international climate policies are not only possible but also economically beneficial.

European climate diplomacy has been a critical tool to protect and promote strategic British interests, both from an economic and a security perspective. Today, the UK is the global leader in offshore wind technology and green finance. Without a stable climate there are no stable states, and for Britain itself to be safe it needs other countries, such as China and India, to do more to reduce their emissions.

Because of the long-standing tradition of UK climate diplomacy, the UK has been able to leverage its position through shaping and leading European climate diplomacy, and thus the outcome of key international negotiations.

As former Advisor on international climate change in the Italian Prime Minister’s Office, I have seen first-hand the influencing power of the UK as part of the European consensus. Last year, we together successfully defended the irreversibility of the Paris Agreement on climate change in light of the shift of the new US Administration. Together, we can defend our common values and interests more strongly and more effectively.

With Brexit, instead, we will all be weaker: the EU loses a leading member, while the UK loses its main vehicle to protect and project its national interests as the climate changes. At the moment, there are no more effective and credible alternatives to the unique cooperation called European Union.

If anything, Brexit stands for the very opposite of what we need today to effectively tackling global challenges. What we need is stronger cooperation, mutual trust and fact-based judgements instead of isolation, nationalistic spasms and fact-free, populist promises.

Dear friends, as Tony Blair pointed out recently, 2018 will be the year when the fate of Brexit, and thus of Britain, will be decided. That’s why we need a stronger Bath for Europe working with other like-minded groups. The 50 billion and counting bus to tell the truth about Brexit points to a great start of the year.

Finally, let’s be absolutely clear: There is nothing more democratic than changing your mind. Not permitting to do so would be the equivalent of living under a regime.

Even more so when the outcome of the most important decision of our life time is shaped by a nasty cocktail of lies, propaganda, dangerous nationalism and wishful thinking.

I am convinced that most British people demand truth and democracy. And the good news is that 48% is not 48% anymore. The tipping point is close if not already reached!

Keep up the good fight and rest assured you will always have friends on the continent that fight for the same very cause.

Thank you.

Luca Bergamaschi is former Policy Advisor on Climate Change and Energy in the Italian Prime Minister’s Office. Follow him on Twitter @lucaberga
Luca Bergamaschi speaking at the Pulse of Europe in Bath on 7th January 2018. Photo © Clive Dellard.