The Russian invasion of Ukraine has changed the world. The ways it has done so are yet to be fully understood. Many of our post Cold War assumptions have been upended: Germany has abandoned its longstanding policy of maintaining a limited armed forces to commit €100 billion to defence spending; Switzerland has departed from its historical neutrality to apply sanctions to Russia; Finland is now openly discussing NATO membership and things we had assumed would never happen continue to do so on a daily basis. Set against the human tragedy that is unfolding in Ukraine, these events can seem small or insignificant in comparison. Nonetheless, they are likely to have enduring consequences for everyone in Europe. Particularly when it comes to how Europe, including the UK, powers itself.
Last week Brevia Energy released the findings of its audit of the Government’s 2020 Energy White Paper. The results, which were covered by Energy Live News, highlighted how nearly half of the commitments included in the Energy White Paper have been hit or look likely to be reached. However, the research also showed that answers to the ‘Who Pays?’ question remain needed. With the Government expected to publish both its Net Zero Strategy and Heat and Buildings strategy soon, greater detail on that may be soon forthcoming. That is likely to provoke debate about the direction of policy and open new fronts for businesses to make their case about how the net zero transition should be delivered.
Yesterday, the final Police and Crime Commissioner ballot results from the 6 May 2021 elections were announced. This brought to a conclusion the process started last week to elect 145 English local councils, 13 English mayors and 39 police and crime commissioners in England and Wales. As well as the Welsh Parliament (60 seats), London Assembly (25 seats) and, crucially, the Scottish Parliament (129 seats) and the Hartlepool Westminster by-election. These results will have significant implications for all the major political parties in the UK. This will undoubtedly impact the lobbying strategies of companies seeking to influence the direction of policy in our country.
The momentum behind COP26 has created an apparently benign climate for low carbon investment in the UK, however that could all change at next week’s Scottish Parliament election. The 2021 Scottish Parliament elections will be the latest in a series of public ballots, since 2014’s Scottish Referendum, where the future of the United Kingdom is at stake. Due to Brexit and COVID19 it has perhaps been understated how important the Scottish election will be. However, depending upon its result, we could see British politics dominated by the issue of Scottish independence in the same way it was dominated by Brexit in recent years. Businesses whose investments depend on policy decisions yet to come must be mindful of this. As the question of Scottish Independence may leave politicians and officials will little time to consider anything else.
As the year of COP26 2021 should be a positive one in the fight against international climate change, presenting innovative providers of low carbon solutions new opportunities for growth. However, on the horizon there are signs that the weather could be changing. Businesses and investors need to be on the lookout for possible changes to current consensus on tackling climate change. Moreover, they should be thinking about steps they can take to sure up support with both policymakers and the public.
The Prime Minister has surprised many commentators by persuading the European Union (EU) to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement and agree a new Brexit deal. Over this weekend he may well surprise them further by getting that deal through Parliament, which will allow the UK to leave the EU on 31 October 2019.