Authorities are losing faith in the UK’s ability to meet its net zero goals with a significant dip in confidence over the past year.
The Climate Change Committee’s confidence in the UK meeting its net zero goals from 2030 onwards is now “markedly less than it was in our previous assessment a year ago”, according to a progress report.
The UK Government has published the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan (CBDP), providing much greater transparency on its Net Zero plans. However, despite more than 3,000 pages of new detail, “a key opportunity to push a faster pace of progress has been missed, the CCC said.
To date, UK greenhouse gas emissions have fallen 46% from 1990 levels. At COP26, an ambitious 2030 commitment was made to reduce them by 68%. In only seven years, the recent rate of annual emissions reduction outside the electricity supply sector must therefore quadruple.
The committee believes that time is now “very short to achieve this change of pace”. Evidence of the Net Zero transition can be seen in growing sales of new electric cars and the continued deployment of renewable capacity, but the overall action is worryingly slow, they said. The government continues to place its reliance on technological solutions that have not been deployed at scale, in preference to more straightforward encouragement of people to reduce high-carbon activities.
The committee has again flagged the risks of a policy programme that, among other things, is too slow to plant trees and roll out a widespread heat pump programme.
Lord Deben, chairman of the CCC, said: “The lesson of my 10 years at the Climate Change Committee is that early action benefits the people of this country and helps us to meet the challenges of the coming decades more cheaply and more easily. Yet, even in these times of extraordinary fossil fuel prices, the government has been too slow to embrace cleaner, cheaper alternatives and too keen to support new production of coal, oil and gas. There is a worrying hesitancy by ministers to lead the country to the next stage of Net Zero commitments.
“I urge the government to regroup on Net Zero and commit to bolder delivery. This is a period when pace must be prioritised over perfection.”
Rebecca Newsom, head of politics for Greenpeace UK, 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?
“With their disposable green pledges, the prime minister and his predecessors have hoodwinked an entire generation while leaving the next one with a much steeper mountain to climb. As extreme weather worsens and public concern grows, Sunak’s poor track record on climate may well come back to bite him at the next election.”