The government’s progress in meeting its net-zero commitments is “worryingly slow,” according to a new report from the independent Climate Change Committee.
In its 15th annual progress report to parliament, the committee said its confidence that the government can achieve its 2030 emissions reduction target has “diminished markedly from last year.”
The report said slow progress on targets, coupled with “rollback” in fossil fuel commitments, such as on the new Cumbria coal mine and new oil and gas licences, had cost the UK its ” clear global leadership position” on climate change.
The UK, the committee said, is sending “mixing signals” to the international community with such initiatives.
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“A key opportunity to drive a faster pace of progress has been missed,” the report states, adding: “Time is now too short to achieve this change of pace.”
“Glimpses of the net-zero transition can be seen in the growing sales of new electric cars and the continued deployment of renewable (energy) capacity, but the scale of action overall is worryingly slow.”
The report also cites a lack of progress in decarbonizing home heat with technology like heat pumps, over-reliance on unproven technology like carbon capture, and insufficient tree planting as among the policy areas flagged for The critics.
Committee chairman Lord Deben said: “We have fallen behind. The government has lost the leadership role it had and carried it out at the COP26 summit in Glasgow.
“There is no question that Great Britain led the world… since then we have done a number of things that go against that. We are still hesitant about onshore wind, we don’t have the (electric) grid even on track to be right.
“We are still building houses that are not fit for the future. Across the political spectrum, there is a lack of will to lead.”
This is the final annual report to be published by Lord Deben, and the former Conservative environment secretary said he was “sad” that his final pronouncement had to be so pessimistic.
“Everything we love the most is threatened by climate change… we cannot let these chances pass us by… because they will not return and our children and grandchildren will ask us how we let them down”, he closes.
Shadow Climate and Net Zero secretary Ed Miliband was scathing, calling the annual evidence update “catastrophic negligence” by ministers and “certainly the most damning accusation by a government since the CCC was established in 2008”.
Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion Caroline Lucas said: “This report could hardly be more damning.
“We are going more backwards than forwards. The dangerous vacillations and delays of this government have led a horse and carriage to surpass the UK’s previous reputation as a global climate leader.”
Defending the government’s record, energy minister Graham Stuart said: “Some 76% of the energy in the world’s most decarbonised major economy, us, comes from fossil fuels today.
“There’s no button you can push that will turn that off tomorrow. And since we will be dependent on oil and gas for decades to come, even as we move toward net zero, it makes sense for us to produce it here,” he continued.
Philip Dunne, the Conservative MP and chair of the environmental audit committee, said: “The latest CCC report makes worrying reading and should serve as a wake-up call to ministers. Although the Government has indicated the ‘what’ it intends to offer, gaps remain in the ‘how’ to achieve it through political levers”.
He added: “The quick and brief intention to ‘install 600,000 heat pumps a year’ or ‘plant 30,000 hectares of trees a year’ sounds impressive, but details on delivery and progress are lacking.”