The UK Government seems to be slipping further off track from meeting its legally binding 2030 emissions targets following the Prime Minister’s announcement on net zero policies, the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) chief executive has said.
Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday afternoon that his Government was delaying a ban on new petrol and diesel cars by five years, scrapping energy efficient requirements in homes, weakening the plan to phase out new gas boilers and delaying a ban on off-grid oil boilers.
He also said he was scrapping “heavy-handed measures” such as a proposal on taxing meat and flying, which Chris Stark of the CCC described as a “peculiarity” because it has never been Government policy.
Speaking to Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Stark said: “I hadn’t suggested a tax on meat, I know that others have.
“He seemed to be cancelling a set of policies that the Government hadn’t announced which is I suppose a political technique but important to say these might be in the policy mix but they’re just suggestions and they might be needed only if it looks like the mainstream policies that would guide emissions down weren’t working.”
In June his organisation said the Government was falling behind in its objectives to meet the 2030 emissions targets – seen as a key milestone towards achieving net zero by 2050.
The Government is legally required to reduce its emissions by 68% compared with 1990 levels and has committed to this internationally through the Paris Agreement.
Mr Stark said: “I worry about what the Government announced yesterday because it looks like those goals will be even harder to hit with this softer package now around climate policy.
“It’s difficult to escape the idea that we’ve moved backwards from where we were when we did our last assessment of progress.”
The UK has reduced emissions by 48% so far but the majority of those savings have come by removing coal from the power sector.
Harder savings now remain that require changes to people’s lifestyle or consumer patterns, with transport now being the sector with the largest share of emissions.
The CCC is a group of experts which works independently but receives funding from the Government. It was established in 2008 as part of the Climate Change Act and advises the Government on how it can reach its targets.
Each year it provides a progress report to Parliament as well as advising ministers on how they can meet each five-year carbon budget, designed to bring down emissions to eventually meet net zero.
Governments generally adopt the headline recommendations of the CCC but do not accept every piece of advice. More recently, the current Government has been drifting farther away from what the CCC says is necessary to meet upcoming targets, such as adopting more heat pumps and encouraging the growth of the electric car sector.
The Prime Minister said he does not want the Government to force people to buy an electric car and that people should be free to make the switch when they feel ready.
Mr Stark said: “It didn’t happen by magic that we brought down the cost of renewable power and the alternative energies that we now are relying increasingly on in this country.
“The UK has done a really important job of putting in policies to bring the cost down and when you look at what’s happening already in sales of electric cars, guided by that 2030 date that Boris Johnson named a few years ago, we think that is one of the few areas where the Government was doing pretty well.
“We’re here to advise the Government on how they achieve their own objectives, we’re looking at the pathways for emissions in each of the sectors of the economy that the Government itself has laid out.
“The wishful thinking here is that we have not got a policy package to hit the legal targets that this country has set in law through the Climate Change Act.”
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