Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

London — The UK has fallen behind on its promises to slash emissions and fight climate change despite claims it’s leading major industrialised nations in its fight to slow global warming.

That’s the conclusion of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the UK government’s official adviser on environmental policies, which suggests ministers need to take much more dramatic action to meet their own promises.

The findings in an annual report to parliament show that efforts to rein in fossil-fuel emissions have largely been confined to the power generation industry, with policies for other segments of the economy too narrow to be effective. The report suggests ministers so far are only paying lip service to a goal shared by the main political parties to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 2050.

“The UK is not ready for the impacts of climate change, even at the minimum expected level of global warming,” Julia King, chair of the CCC’s adaptation committee. “The government is not yet addressing adequately all the climate risks it has itself identified as critical.”

In the past 12 months, Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative government has delivered one of 25 policies needed to meet emissions targets, the report said. Last year, UK GHG emissions fell 2%, bringing to 40% the total reduction from levels reached in 1990 when the consensus about the need to tackle global warming gained traction.

“This is a remarkable, damning assessment of the government’s failure to tackle and prepare for climate change by their own advisers,” said Rebecca Long Bailey, the Labour Party’s energy spokesperson.

Britain isn’t alone in missing its targets. Most EU nations are also behind on the goals they set for 2030, according to a report from the bloc’s regulatory arm released last month.

The UK climate committee made recommendations across every aspect of British infrastructure, transport and agriculture. If implemented, the measures could see the country move more quickly to its zero-emissions target.

Surface transport is the single biggest polluting sector in the UK, making up 23% of all emissions. The advisory body said Britain needs to move the ban on combustion vehicles to as early as 2030 and bring in stronger incentives to buy cleaner vehicles.

The CCC released a report in May outlining a vision for a net-zero future in the UK that Prime Minister Theresa May’s government adopted into law without giving any detail as to how it would be achieved.

The CCC progress report recommended:

  • Formal inclusion of aviation and shipping emissions in the Climate Change Act.
  • A mechanism for carbon capture and storage infrastructure in place over the next year.
  • A strategy for developing low-carbon hydrogen use drawn up in the short term.
  • Industry to see 90% emissions reduction by 2050.
  • All new heating systems in buildings be low carbon by 2035.
  • A 20% cut in consumption of beef, lamb and dairy.
  • As much as 50,000ha of new forests planted every year up to and throughout 2050.

Bloomberg