The UK government is failing to act on climate change and will struggle to meet its new 2050 net zero carbon target unless urgent action is taken, the Committee for Climate Change (CCC) has warned.
The climate change advisors’ annual progress report, published today, found that the government delivered just one of 25 emissions-reducing actions recommended by the committee in 2018.
In a separate, related report, the committee also found that the UK is seriously underprepared for protecting citizens from the impacts of climate change, saying that England is still not ready to face even a 2C rise in global temperature.
Lord Deben, CCC chairman, said: ‘The UK is the first major economy to set a net-zero emissions target and intends to host the world’s leaders at next year’s landmark climate conference (COP26). These are historic steps forward and position the UK at the forefront of the global low-carbon transition.
‘But international ambition does not deliver domestic action. It’s time for the government to show it takes its responsibilities seriously. Reducing emissions to net zero by 2050 requires real action by government now.’
The CCC has repeated warnings that the government’s current policies and climate change plans are insufficient to meet the UK’s fourth and fifth carbon budgets, covering 2023-2027 and 2027-2032.
Of 24 indicators showing the UK’s underlying progress towards its climate goals, just 7 were on track last year, the committee found.
While the CCC acknowledged that progress has been made in a few areas, such as phasing out coal power stations, it noted that the government is ignoring its recommendations in others, such as its current plans to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars in 2040 rather than 2030.
The only action requested by the CCC for 2018 that the government did deliver was to maintain a carbon tax on power emissions stations after Brexit.
The CCC also warned that many national plans and policies are failing to adequately address the risks posed by climate change such as flooding and soaring temperatures.
Only a few sectors – such as water supply, road and rail, and flood defences – have plans that consider a minimum temperature rise of 2C, while 12 out of 33 sectors, including business and health, have no plans for long-term climate change at all.
The CCC has urged the government to embed its net zero policy across all government levels and departments while taking steps to protect people from the effects of overheating and flooding.
A government spokesperson said the UK has cut emissions faster than any G7 country but accepted that ‘there is more to do’.
‘We’ll set out plans in the coming months to tackle emissions from aviation, heat, energy and transport as well as further measures to protect the environment from extreme weather including flood protection, tree planting and peatland management,’ the spokesperson said.
The government is set to formally respond to the CCC’s recommendations in October of this year.
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