The UK government is set to fall spectacularly short of achieving its main goal for cutting carbon emissions, according to the independent Climate Change Committee (CCC).
In April, Boris Johnson’s government agreed to set into law the CCC’s Sixth Carbon Budget recommendation to cut CO2e* by 78% of 1990 levels, by 2035.
This ambitious target is an important step towards reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and avoiding the worst social and economic consequences of climate change.
But in its latest report, the CCC stated that “credible policies for delivery currently cover only around 20% of the required reduction in emissions to meet the Sixth Carbon Budget.”
* carbon dioxide equivalent, a measurement that converts all greenhouse emissions into CO2 terms
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Promises, promises, damned lies, and promises
The report accused the government of failing to back up its world-leading rhetoric and aims with actions.
In a joint foreword, CCC leaders Lord Deben and Baroness Brown said the government’s “willingness to set emissions targets of genuine ambition contrasts with a reluctance to implement the realistic policies necessary to achieve them.”
The report explained: “Not one of the 34 priority areas assessed in this year’s progress report on adaptation is yet demonstrating strong progress in adapting to climate risk.”
In 2019, the UK became the first nation to enshrine a net-zero target in law.
Since then, the government has abolished the 18-month-long Green Homes Grant after six months of shoddy implementation, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, it pledged £14.2 billion more to the fossil fuel industry than green energy.
Can the UK reach its new target?
Yes – but the government would have to cut the country’s emissions by an average of 15.7 million tonnes per year to achieve its 2035 goal.
In the 11 years since the Conservatives were voted into government, the nation’s carbon emissions have fallen at a rate of 13.8 million tonnes per year.
This has allowed the UK to cut 48.8% of its 1990 emissions level – but the pace of change must now be increased.
And according to the CCC, the government has failed to put policies in place to cut the last 29.2%.
Lord Deben and Baroness Brown wrote: “We continue to blunder into high-carbon choices.
“Our planning system and other fundamental structures have not been recast to meet our legal and international climate commitments.”