“What’s the EU?” asked my 7 year old last night. His eyes were on the football (England v Slovakia) and he was barely listening to the reply. But I tried anyway.
“It’s a group of countries that work together to make trading easier, make products safer, and promote peace,” I said, desperately hoping that I was telling him the right things. He wasn’t listening anyway because one of the Slovakia players had just got a massive nosebleed which was “awesome” and the fish and chip van had just pulled up outside.
But he will (hopefully) care it in about 10 years when he may or may not be getting a job, going travelling, applying to go to University or playing professional football (his current plan). He will care if he has a family and wants them to breathe clean air. The environmental aspects of this are really important to me and haven’t been talked about much. A few weeks ago I listened to energy experts giving evidence to the government on the implications of the EU referendum on energy and climate change. They expressed their concern that leaving means losing the drive for renewable energy that comes from the EU. The fact that the UK government this year cut the incentives for solar and onshore wind energy shows me the direction of travel should we leave. Under the Renewable Energy Directive the EU has set targets for 20% of all power generation to come from renewable sources by 2020. Under this directive the target for the UK is 15% but we are not going to meet it. A leaked letter from the energy secretary Amber Rudd to some of her Cabinet colleagues late last year said that the UK was headed for a shortfall and we will only have 11.5% by 2020.
So despite being party to the legally binding obligations of the EU, the UK is not investing enough in clean energy. I dread to think where we would be if we left. And what is more a lot of investors in energy are – wait for it – European. The European Investment Bank loaned the UK 9bn Euros for energy projects over the past couple of years. We won’t get that if we leave. Other investors too are uneasy about the prospect of withdrawing. To be honest they were pretty uneasy anyway as the current government energy policy is not working very well. This is evidenced by the fact that we haven’t built any of the new gas fired generation projects that are supposed to replace coal, or started building any new nuclear power stations. As a result the UK’s reserve margin (difference between generating capacity and electricity demand) has been falling. One of the plans that government has to fill the looming power supply gap is more interconnection (9GW to be exact) with guess who? Europe! It doesn’t seem like a good time to be leaving the EU to me.
Another thing that worries me about leaving the EU is that we won’t be subject to other laws that will safeguard the environment like the Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD) and its successor the Industrial Emissions Directive which has already led to the closure of 12,400 MW (Mega Watts) of coal and oil fire power stations because they can’t comply with the stricter limits on sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and dust. Between them these chemicals create ozone (hello climate change) and affect our health (wheesy, chesty, cough?). Being part of Europe means that large companies can’t poison us with their toxic fumes. I don’t trust the current government to put our health above the potential for more profit for large companies.
But to be honest I am finding it hard to think about any of this after watching Game of Thrones last night. After the first ten minutes I thought it was the best thing I had ever seen, starting with Daenery’s outsmarting the slave masters who thought that they were about to take the City of Mereen. “We are here to discuss your surrender, not mine,” Daenerys told them as the Dothrakki charged onto the screen with their arakhs flying to slaughter the Sons of the Harpy (who is the Harpy? Does anyone know?).
And then it happened. The moment we had all been waiting for since she rose from the funeral pyre of Khal Drogo with the baby dragons in 2011. She led all three dragons to burn her enemies. “Dracarys” she said and Drogon roared out his fire. And the crowd (sitting on sofas in homes around the world) went wild.
And then, just when my heart rate was recovering, it got even better. John Snow may still know nothing (about his heritage) but he knows how to fight for the North. The poetic justice in Ramsay Bolton being savaged by his own dogs as Sansa watched was absolutely perfect. Let’s just hope she isn’t in need of any of Queen Margaery’s moon tea.
So what would Daenerys do about the EU referendum? I think we all know the answer to that. She’d take over and reform it. “I don’t want to stop the wheel,” she said. “I want to break the wheel.”
But this Thursday the battle isn’t Dothrakki versus slave masters, Stark versus Lannister or the Wildlings versus the Crows, it is Leave versus Remain and for many reasons, not just environmental ones, I will be voting to stay.