The UK’s climate change advisers call out its slow action on tackling crisis

Rishi Sunak speaking at COP27
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The UK government’s advisory body on tackling climate change voiced concern at the country’s slow pace of action to tackle the climate crisis on 28 June.

The independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) warned that time was running out for the UK to meet its goals to cut carbon use by 2030. The committee said it was “markedly less” confident than a year ago that the country could achieve its climate-focused aims.

Worryingly slow action on climate crisis

The CCC said ministers were over-reliant on technology that had not been rolled out at scale, as opposed to encouraging the public to reduce high-carbon activities.

Some developments, such as new renewable energy projects, provided “glimmers” of hope. However, it broadly concluded that:

the scale up of action overall is worryingly slow.

CCC chairman John Gummer, a Conservative peer, said “early action” was cheaper in the long run. It would allow the government to meet looming environmental challenges more easily. However, he warned that:

even in these times of extraordinary fossil fuel prices, Government has been too slow to embrace cleaner, cheaper alternatives and too keen to support new production of coal, oil and gas.

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Gummer spoke of a “worrying hesitancy by ministers to lead the country to the next stage” needed to arrive at the country’s net zero commitments. He urged them to commit to bolder delivery. Gummer insisted that:

This is a period when pace must be prioritised over perfection.

Time is now short to tackle climate crisis

Ahead of the UN climate change conference in Glasgow in 2021, known as COP26, the UK pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 68% by 2030 compared with 1990 levels.

However, the CCC pointed out that emissions had so far only fallen 46%. In light of this, the committee highlighted that:

In only seven years, the recent rate of annual emissions reduction outside the electricity supply sector must therefore quadruple.

Time is now very short to achieve this change of pace.

The CCC said the UK had sent “confusing signals” on its climate ambitions, undermining its COP26 commitments.

The panel said the government has “no clear policy” to deliver its aims of decarbonised steel production. It also noted that upgrading the electricity grid to include renewable infrastructure, particularly onshore wind, is caught up in planning restrictions.

The CCC urged more tree-planting, increased use of domestic heat pumps, and a moratorium on airport expansion.

UK continues to embrace fossil fuels

The UK has pledged to be carbon-neutral by 2050. However, successive Conservative governments have continued to embrace fossil fuel expansion. Under prime minister Rishi Sunak, for example, the government has approved a new coal mine in northwest England.

Responding to the CCC’s report, Greenpeace UK’s head of politics Rebecca Newsom said:

There’s almost no progress in this progress report, just a pitiful catalogue of Rishi Sunak’s climate failures. The same government that promised to deliver the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth is now turbocharging fossil fuel expansion while actively blocking renewables and neglecting home insulation, public transport and an ageing power grid.

Sunak is snubbing the solutions that can give us lower bills, warmer homes and a safer climate, while cheerleading for the oil giants making billions from climate destruction and people’s hardship. Whose side is he on?

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

Featured image via the Guardian / YouTube

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