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UK 'must triple efforts to cut emissions'

The UK needs to triple its efforts towards cutting emissions and moving to a low-carbon economy by 2050, a report has warned.

The Climate Policy Tracker for the European Union by wildlife charity WWF and innovation company Ecofys reveals that EU countries on average are doing only a third of what is needed to cut emissions by between 80 per cent and 95 per cent by mid-century.

The report examines all EU countries on areas such as transport, buildings and renewables, giving them an overall grade of between A and G, and reveals the UK scores only an "E" rating.

The grade means the UK is doing only a third of what is necessary to put the economy on track towards massively slashing greenhouse gases by 2050.

While the country is awarded a "best in class" B rating for its Climate Change Act, which was the first legislation in the world to set legally binding long-term targets for cutting emissions, the report says the UK lags behind other countries in a number of its climate policies.

According to the report, the UK trails behind Germany, Denmark, Ireland and Sweden on the overall steps it is taking to cut its emissions and move to a low-carbon economy.

The four best countries receive only a D rating, meaning they still need to double their efforts to put them on track to cutting emissions by the amount needed.

Many countries lag even further behind, being given an F rating.

The study suggests the UK is being outstripped by countries including Denmark and Germany on renewables, by Ireland on energy efficiency and by France and the Czech Republic on cutting emissions associated with buildings.

According to the analysis, the UK is not providing enough financial support for combined heat and power schemes, or sufficient incentives for low-emission cars.

While the country's incoming zero-carbon standards for new homes are "unique" in Europe, they are not supplemented by support for existing buildings.

And there are still significant barriers to increasing the amount of renewable electricity in the country, including problems with grid access and the planning system.

The report also warned that the focus on new nuclear power stations was likely to undermine investment in renewables, where the UK has massive potential - particularly for wind.

Keith Allott, WWF-UK's head of climate change, said: "The UK, like all member states, needs to scan its full policy portfolios to address the weaknesses that show up in this report, especially in transport and energy efficiency.

"It is, however, encouraging to see the UK leading Europe with its Climate Change Act which, if implemented properly, should guide the transition to a clean, carbon-free economy.

"The Act puts the UK Government in a strong position to encourage other developed nations to implement zero-carbon action plans in the forthcoming UN climate change negotiations.

"Time is very short and prompt action has to start immediately."

The report comes a week before countries from around the world gather in Cancun, Mexico, in the latest round of UN talks on global efforts to tackle climate change and cut emissions.

Allott added: "WWF is encouraging the EU to break through the silos and work together across countries and policies, ensuring that a target to reduce emissions by at least 30 PER CENT by 2020 is put in place.

"Many countries, including the UK, must also remove counter-productive policies, such as transport for fossil fuels and tax exemptions for energy-intensive activities like oil and gas and air transport."

Niklas Hohne, director of energy and climate policy at Ecofys, said: "There are success stories in each country and policy-makers should learn from best practices across Europe.

"Overall, however, the ratings are low. Support for renewable energy is most widely implemented across Europe and shows the most progress, whilst energy efficiency, transport and industry are lagging behind."

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