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UK Loses Status as World Leader on Climate Issues

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The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has announced today that the UK is no longer a world leader on climate issues thanks in large to the government’s “worryingly slow” efforts to scale up climate action. The revelation comes in the CCC’s annual report which has also stated that the commission is “markedly” less confident that the UK will meet its decarbonisation targets.

The climate crisis

From 2030, the target set by the government to reach net zero emissions by 2050 will become legally binding, however, based on certain activity over the past year, the outlook is not great says the commission. Within the new report, the CCC has criticised the government for backing new oil and coal, launching plans to expand airports and for the slow progress on heat pump installation in homes and building across the country.

The report states: “the UK has lost its clear global leadership position on climate action. We are no longer COP President; no longer a member of the EU negotiating bloc. Our response to the recent fossil fuel price crisis did not embrace the rapid steps that could have been taken to reduce energy demand and grow renewable generation. “We have backtracked on fossil fuel commitments, with the consenting of a new coal mine and support for new UK oil and gas production – despite the strong wording of the Glasgow Climate Pact. And we have been slow to react to the US Inflation Reduction Act and the EU’s proposed Green Deal Industrial Plan, which are now a strong pull for green investment away from the UK.”

Further details from the report

One of the overarching themes within the report is the notion that the government have missed several key opportunities to push forward and make progress on multiple climate policy areas over the past 12 months. As a result, the government is now in a position, which the commission believes they shouldn’t be in, where they face an uphill task to get decarbonisation progress back on track. If they continue to carry on as they are, then the report states that they have no chance of meeting the legally binding emission targets.

On specifics, the report states that heavy industry decarbonisation, electric van update, and peatland restoration are “significantly off track”. Meanwhile, the committee also believes that the government should be doing more to encourage less flying rather than relying on the development of sustainable aviation fuel.

Within the report, the CCC has also suggested that Ministers have perhaps been hypocritical and contradictory in how their actions have followed their words. They have accused them of “sending confusing signals on its climate priorities to the global community.”

Despite all of the negativity, the report does also speak about some “glimmer of hope”. The CC believe that fast-growing electric car sale and the continued deployment of renewable electricity capacity is something to be proud of.

Reaction to the report

Upon its publication, the Chair of the CCC, Lord Deben voiced his concerns about the government’s policy on new coal and oil projects. Lord Deben is a former Conservative environmental minister and he labelled the recent decision to approve the UK’s first new deep coal mine in 30 years as “total nonsense.” He added: “How can we ask countries in Africa not to develop oil? How can we ask other nations not to expand fossil fuel production if we start doing it ourselves?”

Perhaps in one final blow before he stands down as the CCC at the end of June, Lord Deben also sent a scathing attack in the direction of the current government. He said “If you pass laws in order to do something and then don’t provide the means, then you’re failing. My final report does not show satisfactory progress.”

In response, Graham Stuart – The Minister of State for Energy Security and Net Zero – said the government is doing all it can and that they have met all of their carbon targets to date. Defending the decision to roll out new oil and gas projects, he added “there is no button I can press tomorrow, and as we will be dependent on oil and gas for decades to come, even as we move to net zero, it makes sense that we should produce it here.”

Meanwhile, Rebecca Newsom – Head of Politics at Greenpeace UK – said that the report was simply a “pitiful catalogue of Rishi Sunak’s climate failures.”

Final thought

The Climate Change Committee’s annual report has delivered a damning verdict on the government’s lack of progress in tackling the climate crisis. The report highlights the government’s “worryingly slow” efforts to scale up climate action and its “markedly” reduced confidence in meeting decarbonisation targets. The committee’s criticism of the government’s support for new oil and gas projects and slow progress on heat pump installation is particularly concerning.

The report is a stark reminder that the government needs to do more to address the climate crisis and that the current pace of progress is not sufficient to meet the legally binding emission targets.

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