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News Item: Critics round on UK govt over net-zero targets ‘failure’

Environmental campaigners, business groups and opposition politicians all urged the UK government Wednesday to ramp up delivering climate change policies after an expert panel warned it was failing to make adequate progress.

Britain’s Climate Change Committee (CCC) last year praised the government for its new net-zero strategy to be carbon neutral by 2050, and a series of targets to be met along the way.

But its latest annual progress report found “scant evidence of delivery against these headline goals so far”, prompting wide-ranging criticism of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s administration.

“Time is running out,” Greenpeace UK’s political campaigner, Ami McCarthy, said, accusing ministers of stalling “on greening our homes, delivering renewables and moving our food production system away from meat”.

“The government must roll up its sleeves and deliver the benefits of a climate friendly economy for all.”

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) echoed the sentiment, saying “delivery must now be the government’s watchword — both in the short and long-term”.

“Weathering the cost-of-living crisis requires urgent action on energy efficiency to help bring down household bills,” its decarbonisation director Tom Thackray added.

“Delivering an affordable, resilient and net-zero energy network would also help put pounds back in people’s pockets and propel the UK’s net-zero journey forward.”

– ‘Under-delivery’ –

The CCC, an independent body established under 2008 climate change legislation to advise the government, said although there were some “bright spots” of progress, in most areas “the likelihood of under-delivery is high”.

A “clear and effective programme” was needed to achieve the goals, it added, noting renewed focus on insulating homes and reducing emissions from farming was needed.

The average land temperature in Britain had risen by around 1.2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels and sea levels had risen by 16 centimetres since 1900, the body said last year.

Episodes of extreme heat were becoming more frequent, and it warned that further delay in taking action to mitigate the risks would lead to higher costs in the future.

“The UK is a champion in setting new climate goals, now we must be world-beaters in delivering them,” said CCC chairman John Gummer, a member of Britain’s House of Lords.

“In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, the country is crying out to end its dependence on expensive fossil fuels,” he added.

“I welcome the government’s restated commitment to Net Zero, but holes must be plugged in its strategy urgently.”

The advisory body said UK emissions were now almost half their 1990 levels.

But it noted emissions rose by four percent in 2021 as the economy began to recover from the pandemic.

– ‘Failure’ –

Johnson’s Conservative government has recently reviewed its energy strategy, including provision of nuclear, wind and solar power.

But it is also examining fossil fuel projects in the North Sea, as part of attempts to safeguard domestic supplies after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Gummer argued a proposed coal mine awaiting planning approval in Cumbria, northwest England, was “indefensible”.

The main opposition Labour party said the CCC’s report was “proof of the Conservatives’ failure to act” on the “climate emergency”.

“The British people are paying the price of this failure today in higher bills, and future generations will pay the price tomorrow too,” its climate spokesperson said.

In 2015, the Paris climate pact saw countries pledge to limit global temperature rises to less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to go down to 1.5 degrees.

Experts believe this can be achieved only by the world hitting the 2050 net zero target.