Britain’s top body of climate science advisors have lent their voice to the deafening chorus of investors, industry practitioners, scientists and activists, accusing the Johnson government of, in effect, “voter greenwash” in its climate boasts.
The Climate Change Committee has published its latest assessment of UK progress towards carbon neutrality. Its two parts assess cutting carbon emissions towards Net Zero, and adapting lives and the economy towards change.
Drastic acceleration in ministers’ practical delivery is needed, the CCC urges, if host nation Britain is not to appear ‘a laughing stock’ when the world convenes in Glasgow in November to commit to tougher steps against the climate emergency.
“This defining year for the UK’s climate credentials has been marred by uncertainty and delay to a host of new climate strategies”, said the CCC. “Those that have emerged have too often missed the mark. With every month of inaction, it is harder for the UK to get on track”.
Conservative peer Lord Deben, the committee’s chair, told media he rated Johnson a “10” on green declarations, but a mere “4” on mitigation and achievement.
The CCC specifies that renewables need to meet 70% of the UK’s electricity demand by 2035.
In November Johnson presented his Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. It included high level pledges on offshore wind, green hydrogen, EVs, and carbon capture & storage (CCS).
Ministers have since fobbed off scrutineers seeking detail and evidence of Whitehall co-ordination, telling questioners to wait for Johnson’s delayed Net Zero Strategy, and Sunak’s Comprehensive Spending Review next month.
“The public has not been informed or engaged in the changes that must lie ahead… Progress in adapting to climate change is not keeping up with the increasing risks facing the country”, the CCC judges.
“There is still a window to make comprehensive plans and demonstrate leadership at home and to a global audience. But the Government is taking a high-stakes gamble to focus everything on a new Net Zero Strategy in the autumn”, the scientists say.
“Only five of 34 sectors assessed by (the CCC) have shown notable progress in the past two years, and no sector is yet scoring highly in lowering its level of risk. The National Adaptation Programme for England has not developed national preparedness for even a 2ºC rise in global temperature, let alone higher levels of warming”
All new ministerial policies must be subject to a “Net Zero” test, the CCC urges. An ambitious Heat and Buildings Strategy, working for consumers, is urgently needed. Delayed plans on surface transport, aviation, hydrogen, biomass and food must be delivered.
Plans for the power sector, industrial decarbonisation, the North Sea, peat and energy from waste must be strengthened. The big cross-cutting challenges of public engagement, fair funding and local delivery must be tackled.
The scientists make 200 recommendations needing urgent Whitehall consideration, if not implementation. They include:
- Replacing Johnson’s failed green homes grants to boost insulation
- Managing the phase out of gas boilers
- Toughening building standards to ensure all new homes are built to low-carbon standards
- No new road building unless they can be shown to cut emissions.
- Stiffer taxes on flights and frequent flyers, remedying the imbalance against train travel
- Widespread carbon taxes on waste, industry and other sectors
- 150,000 public charge points for electric vehicles by 2025.
- Public sector workers encouraged to work from home where possible.
- Information campaigns to explain personal changes needed, including cutting meat consumption by up to a fifth
Trade bodies focussed on aspects they could diplomatically support in the CCC report. Solar Energy UK, for the PV trade, welcomed its call for “long-term ambition” around solar and other renewables.
Chief executive Chris Hewett said, “Green NGOs, energy trade bodies, and now the Climate Change Committee are all calling for the Government to be ambitious around solar energy. We need to deploy this affordable, proven technology as fast as possible to ensure we can meet the clean power needs of a net zero economy.
“We will go faster with some timely interventions from Government.”