UK is not on track to meet its own climate targets, says report

UK is not on track to meet its own climate targets, says report
The UK’s emissions targets allow for an increase in aviation emissions

The UK’s emissions targets allow for an increase in aviation emissions

David Kilpatrick / Alamy Stock Photo

The UK is not on course to meet its own targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the 2020s and 2030s. And the longer it delays taking the necessary action the more it will cost to meet those targets, says the UK’s Climate Change Committee.

The good news is that the UK has greatly reduced emissions from electricity generation, says the chair of the committee, John Gummer (Lord Deben). Overall, the UK’s emissions are down 43 per cent compared with 1990 levels.

The bad news is that little progress has been made in transport, farming and buildings. “The success in the power sector has masked failure in other areas,” he says.

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In 2008, the UK enshrined in law a target of cutting emissions 80 per cent by 2050. It also set itself interim targets and established the Climate Change Committee to report on its progress. Ten years on, the latest progress report is out. “This report makes it very clear that this government is not doing enough,” says Gummer.

He also launched scathing attacks on the housing and the car industries. “The [housing] industry should be ashamed of itself. It is producing homes that cheat the people they are sold to,” Gummer says. If new homes are not built to the highest standards, people end up paying higher heating bills for as long as the homes last, he says.

As for the car industry, it has shown it cannot be trusted. So plans to reduce emissions from road vehicles need to be backed by tough regulations and strict enforcement are needed to ensure that vehicles meet standards. The UK has said it plans to stop the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040, but the deadline needs to be closer to 2030 to meet emissions targets, Gummer says.

People’s energy bills have also fallen by £11 on average because of green policies, he says. The policies cost £9 a month but save £20 a month.

The report also calls for:

  • Giving the go-ahead to onshore wind where local communities want it. Onshore wind is the cheapest form of renewal energy in the UK but at present all new projects have been blocked.
  • Incentives for insulating existing homes. Insulation rates have plummeted because the government abandoned existing programmes and has not replaced them
  • More tree planting. The UK is nowhere meeting its target of planting 11 million trees by 2022. Worse still, although the report does not mention it, the UK’s policies are driving deforestation in other countries.

The UK’s emissions targets do allow for an increase in aviation emissions. However, the greater the increase in aviation emissions, the greater the cuts that will have to made elsewhere, Gummer made clear. Crucially, he also specifically ruled out the idea of “offsetting” aviation emissions. “This has to be achieved by at home and not by buying offsets.”

What’s more, there is talk of the UK setting an even more ambitious target for cutting emissions, to bring it in line with the Paris target of limiting warming to 1.5°C. Analysis by Simon Evans of the specialist climate website Carbon Brief shows it will be almost impossible to achieve this if aviation emissions keep growing.

Article amended on 28 June 2018

We amended the headline to clarify who is part of the committee

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