The government risks failing to deliver net zero

Boris Johnson and his ministers have been issued a stark warning, writes Saphora Smith

Wednesday 29 June 2022 18:27 BST
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Climate campaigners have been calling for an energy efficiency push for years. (Philip Toscano/PA)
Climate campaigners have been calling for an energy efficiency push for years. (Philip Toscano/PA) (PA Wire)

It does not look good. A damning new report by the government’s own advisers has found that it is failing to deliver policies to decarbonise the UK’s economy and meet its crucial net zero target.

“Across the board there are serious gaps,” Climate Change Chairman, Lord Deben, said in a briefing on the government’s progress toward net zero on Wednesday. “Under the present proposals we don’t believe that you can reach the statutory, the legal, targets which we need to reach.”

The committee, which was set up under the 2008 Climate Change Act to advise and monitor the UK’s climate targets, found that while there had been progress on some plans, such as the deployment of renewable electricity and electric cars, in most areas the likelihood of under-delivery remained high.

One “shocking” policy gap highlighted by the report is how to help people insulate their homes. The UK has the least energy efficient housing stock in Europe, and installations of insulation remain at rock bottom, according to the committee. This drives up the cost of energy bills at a time when they are already eye-wateringly high thanks to higher demand as economies emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In fact, the average annual energy bill for UK households is around £40 higher than if insulation rates from pre-2012 had continued for the last decade, the committee said. Our leaky homes also mean we emit a huge amount of carbon to heat our homes - not good if the country wants to reach net zero.

The committee said new future homes standards need to be introduced that insist upon developers building better insulated homes so they don’t have to be retrofitted. Lord Deben, a former environment secretary, said a million and a half homes built over the past five years or so need to be retrofitted. “It is a scandal,” he said.

The committee also described progress in reducing farming emissions as “glacial.” The government said it was introducing farming schemes, including the new environmental land management schemes, which will help achieve net zero.

A government spokesperson said it was “leading the world on climate change.”

“The UK is forging ahead of most other countries with around 40 per cent of our power now coming from cleaner and cheaper renewables,” the spokesperson said. “The Glasgow Climate Pact has focused the eyes of the world on bolstering action, including getting 190 countries to agree to phasing out coal.”

In summary, Lord Deben said the government has the “right aims” and is “determined to do the right things.” But that it wouldn’t be “believable” unless it “stands by its word” and has a programme which “manifestly” delivers its legal commitments nationally and those it has made internationally.

It is up to the government to make sure that happens.

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