UK No Longer World Leader in Fighting Climate Change

According to The Climate Change Committee (CCC), the UK has lost it’s leadership role in the fight against climate change. Being described by the CCC as “worryingly slow,” the UK governments upcoming oil and coal plans have severely impacted the country’s role within the global climate crisis.

Lord Deben, chairman of the committee and former Conservative minister, criticised the government on its coal and oil projects. In December 2022, the government agreed to a new deep coal mine – the first in 30 years – which Deben described as “total nonsense.” He also condemned plans for a new oilfield off the coast of Scotland, approval for which would produce 300 million barrels of oil. Deben adds, “how can we ask countries in Africa not to develop oil?… How can we ask other nations not to expand the fossil fuel production if we start doing it ourselves?”

These new projects have been announced despite the UKs legally binding target of reaching net zero by 2050 – this includes not allowing any new greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere as well.

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The CCC report warned “continued delays in policy development and implementation” meant reaching them was “increasingly challenging.” The Committee highlighted a “lack of urgency” across government and a “worrying hesitancy” by ministers to lead on the climate issue.

Despite this clear contradiction between policy and action, Graham Stuart, Minister of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, says that the UK is still on track to meet its carbon targets. He states, “there is no button I can press tomorrow, and as we will be dependent on oil and gas for decades to come, even as we move to net zero, it makes sense that we should produce it here.” 

However, there have been vocal critics of the government’s plans. Rebecca Newsom, head of politics for Greenpeace, called out the report, stating it was a “pitiful catalogue of Rishi Sunak’s climate failures.”

Ed Miliband, Labour’s Shadow Climate and Net Zero Secretary added to this, stating, “this report exposes the catastrophic negligence shown by this government which has left Britain with higher bills, fewer good jobs, our energy security weakened, and the climate emergency unaddressed.”

Despite the Government’s reassurances of being on target, the statistics for renewable energy changeover speak for themselves. The UK had one of the lowest amounts of heat pump installations in 2022 across Europe, there are very few green incentives for UK businesses and there have been no commitments to green initiatives, such as the planting of new trees.

This is reflected in the UK’s plans to expand various airports despite the CCC recommending otherwise. Seven out of ten UK airports have planned expansion, according to a report from the BBC. The Committee has actively called against this and says the government should be doing more to encourage Brits to fly less instead of relying on future developments of sustainable air travel fuel.