There is little sign that [the UK government] understands how to get there and almost two years later it still has no plan.
The UK Government has been accused of having “no plan” for cutting the UK’s emissions to net zero, almost two years after the target was made into law.
A report from the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said there was no co-ordinated plan, with clear milestones, to achieve the legally binding goal to cut emissions by 100 percent by 2050.
MPs also warned the government was not properly engaging with the public on the behaviour changes, such as eating less meat or replacing boilers or cars with cleaner alternatives, that will be needed to achieve the net zero goal.
The warning comes as the UK seeks to show leadership on tackling global warming, as it prepares to host a key United Nations climate summit, known as Cop26, in Glasgow in November.
A separate report from MPs on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) committee urged the government to spell out how it would measure success at the climate change conference.
The Beis report called for the Government to set out a clear list of ambitions for the summit, with accompanying measures of success.
Darren Jones, chairman of the committee, said: “Cop26 this November must conclude with countries around the world setting out their road maps to delivering on the Paris Agreement targets set five years ago.”
The Paris Agreement commits countries to limiting temperature rises to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to curb warming to 1.5C to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change.
Mr Jones said more focus must be given to the “overriding necessity” to agree deliverable policies that keep global temperature rises to as close to 1.5C as possible.
And the government must put sufficient resources behind the global negotiations to ensure agreements are reached at Cop26 to commit and help countries to make the required changes.
On the domestic front, the UK set a target in 2019 to cut emissions to “net zero” by 2050, which requires reducing greenhouses gases to as near to zero as possible and offsetting any remaining pollution with measures to absorb carbon, such as planting trees.
The Public Accounts Committee said that, nearly two years on, the Government lacked a plan to deliver on net zero, though the MPs acknowledged it intended to publish a “plethora of strategies” this year.
As much as 62 percent of future reductions in emissions will rely on individual choices and behaviours, from day-to-day lifestyle choices on diet to big ticket purchases such as vehicles or heating systems.
But the report warned the government had not yet engaged with the public on the changes needed, and it would also have to engage more with local authorities, including ensuring they have the necessary resources to do their bit.
It said the government was not yet ensuring its activities to reduce UK emissions were not simply shifting greenhouse gas pollution overseas, which would undermine global efforts to tackle climate change.
Meg Hillier MP, chairwoman of the PAC, said: “Government has set itself a huge test in committing the UK to a net zero economy by 2050 – but there is little sign that it understands how to get there and almost two years later it still has no plan.
“We must see a clear path plotted, with interim goals set and reached – it will not do to dump our emissions on poorer countries to hit UK targets.
“Our new international trade deals, the levelling up agenda – all must fit in the plan to reach net zero.
“Cop26 is a few months away; the eyes of the world, its scientists and policymakers are on the UK – big promises full of fine words won’t stand up.”
A government spokesperson said it was “nonsense” to say the government did not have a plan, claiming the UK had been “leading the world in tackling climate change, cutting emissions by almost 44 percent since 1990 and doing so faster than any other developed nation in recent years”.
They added: “Only this week in the Budget we built on the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution by encouraging private investment in green growth, and we are bringing forward bold proposals to cut emissions and create new jobs and industries across the whole country.”
Emily Beament is the PA environment correspondent.