Targets are very good. But not if there is no way to reach them. In which case, they are a sham. This is the problem that the government now faces. The UK’s stated goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels is very ambitious. “Extraordinary” was the word used last week by Lord Deben (former Conservative Environment Secretary John Gummer). He chairs the climate change committee (CCC) that advises the government. His latest reports make an unflattering contrast between impressive goals and the absence of plans to achieve them.
A strategy is promised that sets out how the UK intends to meet its zero net commitment ahead of the Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow in November. But so far there are few signs that ministers understand the scale of the challenge. Not a single government department, according to the CCC, is moving at the necessary pace. Transportation, agriculture, buildings, industry – in all key emission-producing sectors except power generation, there has been an alarming lack of progress. Cuts to the aid budget now overseen by the Foreign Ministry mean it is also involved. Supporting poor countries in their transition from fossil fuels has long been recognized as a crucial element of the global climate process.
The UK is far from the only country that does not meet its commitments. Pakistan’s climate minister, Malik Amin Aslam, described the allocation of funds in the final communiqué of the recent G7 meeting as “peanuts.” Leaks from an upcoming report by UN scientists highlight growing concerns that, and emissions are expected to rebound quickly after the pandemic, tipping points, such as melting polar ice caps, could come sooner. than expected. The alarm at such findings has led a group of scientists to form a new group of experts, inspired by the Independent Sage of the United Kingdom, in order to raise public awareness. But as the host of Cop26, and as one of the largest historical emitters due to early industrialization, the UK has a special responsibility to stop cheating.
The CCC sets out the steps that ministers must take now. Restoring the Green Home Grant Program and phasing out gas furnaces could be part of plans to boost jobs and skills, as well as reduce emissions. The huge carbon footprint of old (by international standards) and poorly insulated homes in the UK has been ignored for far too long. It should not be necessary to point out that any new home must be built to the highest environmental standards. That it does so is outrageous and speaks volumes about the homebuilding industry’s influence on government.
Covid’s impact on transportation has been tumultuous and needs to be addressed in a number of ways if increased road traffic pollution is to be avoided. The Labor-led Welsh government hit the right note last week by promising to freeze all road construction plans. The UK government’s £ 27bn plans for new roads must now be reviewed, while London Mayor Sadiq Khan should follow Wales’ lead by canceling plans for a new tunnel under the Thames. Higher taxes on flights are unpopular, but necessary if people are to be persuaded to use the trains. The consumption of meat should be reduced.
Neither of these ideas is new. But preparing for the November conference is a historic and unique moment. So far, the association of Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak has not contributed anything on the weather. According to the CCC, ministers “make mistakes when making high-carbon decisions.” If this does not change in response to the latest warnings, the risk of a diplomatic and environmental catastrophe after not too far from the pandemic will continue to rise.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism