Government’s net-zero plans exhibit ‘major failures’, report shows

There has been a string of “major failures” in the government’s efforts to bring the UK’s carbon emissions down to net zero, the independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) has found.

In a 600-page assessment, it found that while policies are now in place for most sectors of the economy, there is “scant evidence” that the UK will achieve any of its climate change goals so far.

UK emissions are now almost half (47 per cent) their 1990 levels. Emissions rose 4 per cent in 2021 as the economy began to recover from Covid-19 but were still 10 per cent below 2019 levels.

While efforts to boost renewable energy deployment and increase uptake of electric vehicles were found to have progressed, other low-carbon options remain “in their infancy”, the report said.

Home energy-efficiency was one area found to lacking, especially considering soaring energy prices, which have dominated household bills in recent months. While the government promised significant public spending on better insulation in 2019, and committed to new policies last year, neither has yet occurred.

The UK continues to have some of the leakiest homes in Europe and installations of insulation remain at rock bottom. 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.

Agriculture and land use is another area singled out for improvement as it currently has the weakest policies in the CCC’s assessment.

Despite being vital to delivering net zero and other goals on food security and biodiversity, progress in reducing farming emissions has been “glacial”, the report found. It recommends that policies designed to lower agricultural emissions are implemented in the upcoming revised framework on land use that is promised for next year.

The CCC said that the current strategies are simply not enough for the UK to achieve net zero by the stated 2050 goal. Furthermore, it said that greenhouse gas removal technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, cannot be relied upon to fill gaps in failed policy initiatives.

CCC chairman Lord Deben said: “The UK is a champion in setting new climate goals, now we must be world-beaters in delivering them. In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, the country is crying out to end its dependence on expensive fossil fuels.

“I welcome the government’s restated commitment to net zero, but holes must be plugged in its strategy urgently. The window to deliver real progress is short. We are eagle-eyed for the promised action.”

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