COP26: Government must ‘walk the talk’, says climate advisors

Britain is ‘nowhere near’ meeting climate targets, officials warn.

More climate action is needed

The UK is a long way off meeting the emission targets agreed at COP26 in Glasgow, says the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

Official advisors from the CCC, the independent body which advises the UK and devolved governments on emissions targets, warn that, at current rates, the UK will continue to contribute to a calamitous temperature rise of 2.7C by 2100.

According to the CCC, the temperature rise could be reduced to just under 2C, but only if minsters agree tougher policies, coupled with the reduction of emissions from other nations.

Chris Stark, the CCC’s chief executive, says the government is “nowhere near achieving current targets.”

“If it sets tougher targets that will simply widen the gap between ambition and delivery. What we really need is to strengthen delivery – and show the world that it can be done,” said Stark.

Convincing plans are needed

To support the UK’s leadership on the climate crisis, the committee has created a series of ideas and objectives. The ideas include the creation of convincing plans to slash emissions by 78% by 2035.

The group is also calling on the government to draw up agreements to radically reduce “embodied emissions” from industries that are major emitters of pollution, such as cement and steel. Britain should also take measures to reduce embodied emissions in imported goods, the CCC advises. One such measure could be through imposing taxes on goods imported to Britain that are carbon intensive.

During the climate change summit, world leaders agreed to phase-out “inefficient” subsidiaries for fossil fuels. Governments around the world will spend over £313bn a year on subsidising non-renewable energy.

According to the CCC, another proposed strategy could be focused on the phasing out of inefficient subsidiaries for fossil fuels, such as changing tax policy so that fossil fuels pay for the destruction they cause on the environment. The current tax system is inefficient, as it does not penalise the polluting industries responsible for climate damage, the committee says.

“The ultimate success of the Glasgow climate pact will be measured by climate risks averted, not words on a page, “ said committee chairman, Lord Deben.

However, climate experts and campaigners are concerned that the government is not doing enough and warn of the pitfalls of the UK contributing to a 2C temperature rise.

‘Moving far too slowly’

John Sauven, Greenpeace director, heeds such warnings: “The government is moving far too slowly.

“For the committee (CCC) to suggest it’s OK for the UK to contribute to a temperature rise approaching 2C is outrageous. We know that a rise of 1.5C isn’t safe – we’re not even all safe now with a rise of 1.1C.

“What are we going to tell future generations about how we wrecked the climate?”

Claire James, Campaign Against Climate Change campaigns coordinator, alludes to how the government has, for years, faced warnings over the gap between climate ambition and policies to actually meet targets.

“Cop26 didn’t provide the commitment that we need, simply because the governments of rich countries generally prefer platitudes and long-term targets to immediate action,” she said.

“Campaigners out on the streets in Glasgow were clear about the injustice taking place in negotiating halls — they left COP26 determined to hold governments to account for inaction and delay in the face of the escalating crisis,” James continued.

Ed Miliband, who was recently given the role of shadow secretary of state of climate change and net zero as part of the shadow cabinet reshuffle, which will see him champion a New Green Deal in Britain, described the CCC’s report as a sober warning about government greenwash. Miliband is calling on the Tories to bring an end to the delay and “double-talk” on the climate crisis and to focus on delivering real action.

‘Largely hot air’

Sentiment shared by Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer, who is calling for an end to fossil fuel expansion, a carbon tax to make polluters pay, and greater investment in public transport. Denyer commented:

“The government is making ambitious promises on carbon reductions, but this is largely hot air. Prime ministerial bluster is no substitute for practical action. In fact, their policies are taking us in the wrong direction, with new fossil fuel extraction planned, billions going into road-building, and an utter failure to ensure homes are energy-efficient.

“The public is demanding much greater action, including a carbon tax to make polluters pay, funding for public transport and walking and cycling, and a massive programme to retrofit our leaky homes. The Climate Change Committee’s report today makes clear the urgent need to close the gap between ambition and delivery.”

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a freelance journalist and contributing editor to Left Foot Forward.

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