Brexit Britain's climate ambitions have sparked a new 'Space Race' with EU

Boris Johnson this week set out the most ambitious plans to tackle climate change in the world. The Prime Minister vowed to cut carbon emissions by more than three-quarters by 2035, insisting that the UK will lead the way in green technologies. This has prompted a modern-day “Space Race” between Downing Street and Brussels, a contest that both parties view as a success story.

“It’s a ‘man on the moon moment’,” one insider told

While Britain set out plans to cut emissions by 78 percent by 2035 compared to 1990 levels, EU nations have agreed to slash their rates by at least 55 percent in a similar timescale.

No10’s climate announcement was seen as a helpful gesture by eurocrats to help get a largely divided EU on board with their climate ambitions.

Mr Johnson has always viewed the UK’s presidency of the Cop26 climate summit as the ideal way to market post-Brexit Britain as a force for good across the world.

His negotiators refused to goad and torment their EU counterparts over the bloc’s often flawed climate goals during the future relationship talks.

Lord Frost’s team of wranglers could’ve opted to take advantage of the EU’s struggles to build a consensus on climate goals during the negotiations over the so-called “level playing field” in the Brexit trade deal.

But insiders said Downing Street was keen to avoid the row because it wanted to build a unified approach ahead of the Cop26 conference in Glasgow later this year.

Brussels is often dragged down by eastern states, such as Poland and Czech Republic, that say they aren’t ready to ditch their coal-fuelled power stations.

Cop26 chief Alok Sharma has struck up an unlikely relationship with European Commission executive vice-president Frans Timmermans.

The Dutchman is response for the EU’s climate change goals and holds regular video conferences with his British counterpart.

Mr Timmermans told the Times: “We want Europe to be the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, but we need to inspire others around the world to follow the same path.

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“It meant that European leaders like Macron or Merkel could point to the UK to get the 55 percent target across the line.

“They could say, ‘look, we can’t let Brexit Brits beat us on this’.”

Unlike the bitter EU-UK row over vaccines, both sides believe the friendly competition over climate will help spur them on.

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