According to a new report, the government’s existing policies will fall short of its flagship goal of net zero carbon emissions.
The warning was issued by the Climate Change Committee, an independent body charged with assessing the government’s plans to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
Committee chairman Lord Deben said: “The UK is a champion in setting new climate targets, now we must be global beaters to achieve them.
“In the midst of a cost of living crisis, the country is crying out to end its reliance on expensive fossil fuels.
“A lot of departments haven’t gotten up to speed yet and what we say is that we don’t have time to wait, it’s very serious, it’s no longer possible to ignore the that we’re going to make this planet uninhabitable if we don’t act now.”
The commission’s report points to “major failures in delivery programs”, warning in particular of a “shocking gap” in policy for better insulated homes.
He says: “The government promised major public spending in 2019 and pledged new policies last year. Neither has happened yet.
“The UK continues to have some of the tightest homes in Europe and insulation installations remain at rock bottom.”
The report also describes ‘glacial’ progress in agriculture and land use, which currently accounts for 12% of UK carbon emissions.
The head of agriculture at the soils association, Gareth Morgan, said: ‘The government must urgently wake up to the scale of the challenge.
“Sleepwalking Towards Catastrophe”
A WWF spokesperson said in a statement: “We risk a downward spiral if we do not act now to fix our broken food system, starting by tackling the devastating impact of food production on climate and nature.
The Climate Change Committee report says great progress has been made in renewable electricity and the uptake of electric cars, and highlights that UK emissions are now almost half of their 1990 levels.
But Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “This report is an absolutely damning condemnation of the government’s inaction. As we are in an urgent race against time to deal with the emergency climate change, with the Prime Minister himself warning that it is one minute to midnight, his own government is dragging on the slow lane.
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“The CCC rightly points out the yawning gap between words and delivery. In truth, words are cheap. Boris Johnson may claim to be the best in the world, but when it comes to reducing emissions, it cheats on the climate: you can’t get out of a climate emergency.
“He claims to be taking action but he is failing to deliver on his promises – and worse yet, he is actively pursuing policies that will lock us into higher emissions and lose this unique opportunity for leadership.
“Be ahead of other countries”
In a statement, a government spokesman said: “We should all be proud that over the past three decades the UK has reduced emissions faster than any other G7 country, and that we have clear plans to go further.
“The UK is getting ahead of most other countries with around 40% of our electricity now coming from cleaner and cheaper renewables.
“This is backed by £6bn of funding to make our homes and buildings more energy efficient, planting up to 30,000 hectares of new trees a year and more electric cars on our road than ever before – decarbonizing our cars and vans faster than any other developed country.
“We are leading the world on climate change, helping over 90% of countries set net zero targets during our COP26 presidency – up from 30% two years ago. The Glasgow Climate Pact has attracted the world’s attention on stepping up action, including getting 190 countries to agree to phase out coal.”