02 December 2021

‘UK must urgently deliver emissions cuts in wake of Cop26’

02 December 2021

The UK does not yet have the measures in place to deliver on its international pledges to tackle the climate crisis, independent advisers have warned.

In an assessment of the Cop26 summit in Glasgow last month, the Climate Change Committee said current climate policies by governments around the world will not deliver “close to” global goals to limit dangerous warming.

The next 12 months are “critical” for climate action and the UK must urgently deliver planned measures to cut emissions, it urged.

The global Cop26 conference saw increases in ambition on climate action but the world is falling short to meet targets in the global Paris treaty of limiting temperature rises to “well below” 2C or to 1.5C to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

If all the ambition in countries’ announced 2030 targets, and their pledges to reach net-zero emissions in the long term, are met, it would lead to expected warming of just under 2C, the committee said

But current policies would deliver global warming of around 2.7C.

The Glasgow Pact agreed at Cop26 requests that countries come back to the table with more ambitious 2030 targets by next year to keep alive the goal of limiting temperatures to 1.5C.

In its analysis, the Climate Change Committee said the UK already has one of the most ambitious targets for 2030, which is in line with the Paris goals, but does not yet have all the policies in place to deliver this ambition.

The country should focus on delivering on its promises, rather than further increasing its ambition and widening the gap between targets and delivery, the experts urged.

The Government produced a “net-zero” strategy for the UK ahead of Cop26, with policies to meet its long-term goal to cut emissions to zero overall by 2050, meet its international 2030 pledge to cut emissions by 68% on 1990 levels, and other legal targets for the 2020s and 2030s.

The committee said the net-zero strategy provides a strong foundation and needs to be implemented quickly.

It also warned there must be clearer plans for cutting emissions from agriculture, and the net-zero strategy is missing action on behaviour change, such as shifting diets away from meat and dairy, and limiting growth in demand for flying.

There should also be action to address “consumption emissions” – such as the pollution associated with products that are imported for use in the UK, which could include carbon border taxes or trade measures.

And in response to the Glasgow Pact call for a “phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”, the Treasury should initiate a review of the role of tax policy in delivering net zero.

That should include the role of tax in achieving a higher and more consistent price on carbon across the economy, the committee said, warning that low carbon prices are effectively a subsidy and no fossil fuel subsidies should be classed as “efficient”.

Any efforts to strengthen its national climate plans for 2030 should see the UK focus on efforts to adapt to climate change, make the target legally binding and spell out that it will meet the goal through emissions cuts alone and not through “offsetting” pollution, for example by planting trees.

The ultimate success of the Glasgow Climate Pact will be measured by climate risks averted, not words on a page

Committee chairman Lord Deben said: “Glasgow was a step forward in global efforts to address climate change, including a genuine increase in ambition to reduce emissions worldwide.”

But he warned: “The next year is critical for climate action in the UK and internationally.

“At home, we need to walk the talk and urgently deliver actions in the net-zero strategy.

“Globally, the UK must continue to encourage stronger action on climate and insist on rapid emissions reductions and stronger adaptation through all diplomatic channels.

“The ultimate success of the Glasgow Climate Pact will be measured by climate risks averted, not words on a page.”

The assessment comes after the Business Department (Beis) refused to reveal details of how its flagship net-zero strategy will deliver the carbon cuts needed to tackle the climate crisis.

A request by the PA news agency under Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) to publish a spreadsheet setting out the emissions reductions of specific policies in the strategy – which has not been shared with the Climate Change Committee – has been rejected by Beis.

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