Government put on notice on climate change failures

| 28th June 2018
Vehicles queuing on motorway

Going nowhere: government climate change policy

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The UK is not on course to meet its carbon targets and risks increasing the cost to consumers of dealing with climate change. CATHERINE EARLY reports

My committee has chosen this moment to give a strong message to government: act now, climate change will not pause while we consider our options.

Concrete policies to improve household energy efficiency, support carbon capture and storage and incentives for people to buy electric vehicles must all be delivered in the next 12 months, the government’s climate change advisor said today.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) was created through the 2008 Climate Change Act to advise government on how to tackle the issue as well as scrutinising its progress.

In its annual progress report to Parliament published today, it welcomes the overall reduction in emissions of 43 percent compared with 1990.

Existing policies

However, this has been achieved almost entirely through cuts from the power and waste sectors, which “masks a worrying trend in other sectors,” the committee said.

“In this report, we refer to the ‘uneven’ balance of emissions reduction, a polite way of drawing attention to government inaction in a host of areas”, it states.

“This can’t go on. In the last five years, emissions outside of power and waste have plateaued. My committee has chosen this moment to give a strong message to government: act now, climate change will not pause while we consider our options,” the report reads.

Lack of action means that the UK is not on track to meet its legally binding fourth or fifth “carbon budgets” set under the Climate Change Act.

Neither will be achieved unless risks to the delivery of existing policies are reduced significantly, and the government brings forward effective new policies beyond the electricity generation and waste sectors, the committee warned.

Low-cost and low-risk

It urged the government to take action in the consumer interest, highlighting in particular onshore wind, which it said was low-cost and low risk.

Deployment of onshore wind has stalled in recent years since the government tightened planning rules and excluded the technology from auctions for energy contracts.

Standards to reduce emissions from vehicles also need to be enforced, since consumers have been cheated by misleading industry claims, the committee added.

The committee also highlighted the need for the environment department (Defra) to deal with emissions from agriculture and land use, as voluntary measures have not worked; and the Department for Transport’s failure to publish a strategy for road transport, which was expected in March.

Lord Deben, the CCC chairman, said: “Although the UK seeks to lead the world in tackling climate change, the fact is that we’re off track to meet our own emissions targets in the 2020s and 2030s.”

The elephant in the Cabinet Room

The report was welcomed by environmental campaign groups and industry. Emma Pinchbeck, executive director of renewable energy trade body RenewableUK, said that onshore wind was the cheapest source of electricity, even beating gas and nuclear, and that any politician blocking onshore wind would have to explain to voters why they were being denied the lowest-cost power source.

Paul Morozzo, clean air campaigner at Greenpeace, said: “Transport is the elephant in the Cabinet Room. This government can’t live up to its claims to climate leadership as long as it backs and new Heathrow runway and stalls action on cleaning up our road transport.”

Oliver Hayes, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said that the government’s approach to climate change was “dangerously inadequate”.

“Confirmation that the UK is off course for meeting its climate targets makes this week’s decisions to expand Heathrow and scrap the tidal lagoon at Swansea Bay even less justifiable,” he said.

On Monday, MPs voted 415 to 190 in favour of a third runway at Heathrow. The same day, the government said it would not support plans for a tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay, estimated to generate 11 percent of Welsh electricity consumption every year. It said the £1.3bn project was too expensive, but developers said that it would directly generate more than 2,000 jobs.

This Author

Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and the former deputy editor of the environmentalist. She can be found tweeting at @Cat_Early76.

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