Thursday, May 16, 2019

Brexit threatens UK’s ability to monitor climate change

The UK is at risk of losing the ability to monitor climate change if a Brexit deal is not agreed the Liberal Democrats have warned today.

If the UK leaves the EU then we will no longer be able to participate in the Copernicus* programme as a member state and will have no role in how it is run. This is the most ambitious Earth Observation programme to date and provides accurate information to improve the management of the environment in order to tackle the effects of climate change.

The Copernicus programme is not the only satellite programme the UK could lose access to. The Prime Minister has already made clear the UK will not use the Galileo** satellite for defence or critical national infrastructure once the UK leaves the EU.

The UK currently has no existing way to launch satellites into space, with the last one being launched in 1971, when Black Arrow carried a satellite called Prospero into low Earth orbit, albeit from a launchpad in Australia.

The Conservative Government are rumoured to be proposing new measures to safeguard space infrastructure as part of their first defence space strategy. However, experts have widely critiqued the strategy as completely unfeasible due to the amount it would cost.

Ahead of the EU elections, Liberal Democrat Defence Spokesperson Jamie Stone warned:

“Not only would the UK lose access to vital programmes which the Conservative Government will spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer’s money trying to replace, but the European Union will continue to advance and progress with technology in space whilst we lag behind. As threats on the global stage increase, this is not the time to be leaving satellite programs which help keep us safe.

“The EU’s satellite programmes are also vital if we are to effectively counteract the damage we are doing to the planet. The Conservatives have not only remained unambitious in tackling climate change, but they have doggedly undone the hard work Liberal Democrats did in coalition to help protect our environment. They are clearly showing no signs of stopping.

“By threatening the UK’s access to Copernicus with no replacement the Tories have once again revealed their disdain for saving our planet.

“The Liberal Democrats are clear if we want to tackle climate change and keep our country safe, we need to remain members of the European Union. Every vote for the Liberal Democrats in the European Elections on 23rd May is a vote to stop Brexit.”

*Copernicus is the most ambitious Earth Observation programme to date providing accurate and easily accessible information to improve the management of the environment, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure civil security.

Currently the UK participates as a member state and contributes financially. UK industry and academia are involved in the delivery and operation of the programme. The MoD has no planned replacement for losing access to key Copernicus contracts or data sourced by Copernicus from Contributing Missions as of yet.

**Galileo is the Global Navigation Satellite System created by the EU through the European Space Agency. Just the assessment to replace it cost £92 million. An independent satellite is seen as unaffordable, with expected costs estimated as high as £8.5 billion. The current UK space budget is only £370 million per year with the majority of that going to the European Space Agency.

Last year a Spanish company won a 250 million Euro contract to develop the ground control system for Galileo. This was historically run by UK-based Airbus and was just one of several contracts lost.

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