Britain off track for net zero targets: experts

Britain is failing to make progress towards its ambitious targets to mitigate the effects of a warming planet, a panel reviewing the country’s climate goals said on Wednesday. 

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) last year praised the government for its new Net Zero Strategy to be carbon neutral by 2050.

But its latest progress report found “scant evidence of delivery against these headline goals so far”.

“There are some bright spots of progress, but in most areas the likelihood of under-delivery is high,” the CCC said in a statement.

The CCC, an independent body formed under Britain’s Climate Change Act to advise the government on tackling global warming, said a “clear and effective programme” was needed to achieve the goals.

The average land temperature in Britain had risen by around 1.2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels and sea levels had risen by 16 centimetres since 1900, the body said last year.

Episodes of extreme heat were becoming more frequent, and it warned that further delay in taking action to mitigate the risks would lead to higher costs in the future.

“The UK is a champion in setting new climate goals, now we must be world-beaters in delivering them,” said CCC chairman John Gummer, a member of Britain’s upper chamber House of Lords.

“In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, the country is crying out to end its dependence on expensive fossil fuels,” he added. 

“I welcome the government’s restated commitment to Net Zero, but holes must be plugged in its strategy urgently.”

The advisory body said UK emissions were now almost half their 1990 levels.

But it said emissions rose by four percent in 2021 as the economy began to recover from the pandemic.

The government has recently reviewed its energy strategy, including provision of nuclear, wind and solar power.

But it is also looking at fossil fuel projects in the North Sea, as part of attempts to safeguard domestic supplies after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Gummer, though, said a planned new coal mine awaiting planning approval in Cumbria, northwest England, was “indefensible”.

“Further progress must be led by government policies with clear direction, credible delivery mechanisms and suitable incentives to shape private sector action,” the report said.

“In no sector of the economy is this yet complete,” it said, adding that the progress report had set out 300 recommendations.

In 2015, the Paris climate pact saw countries pledge to limit global temperature rises to less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to go down to 1.5 degrees.

Experts believe this can be achieved only by the world hitting the 2050 net zero target.