25 October 2022

UK well off track to meet 2030s carbon-cutting goals, official figures project

25 October 2022

The UK is currently on track to miss its legal climate targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the mid 2030s by a huge margin, Government figures show.

Data from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) show that with existing and near-fully planned policies, the UK is projected to emit nearly double the amount of pollution as it should do under its 2030s goals.

As part of the UK’s target to cut its pollution by 100% – known as net zero – which became law in 2019, it has a series of five-year budgets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

They include a commitment to cut emissions by 58% on 1990 levels in 2028-2032 in the fifth carbon budget and by 77% by 2033-2037 in the sixth carbon budget.

But the figures from Beis, released amid last week’s political chaos, show the targets for the fifth carbon budget will be missed by 73 million tonnes of greenhouse gases, a 56% reduction on 1990 levels.

Over the five years of the sixth carbon budget, the UK is projected to emit 1,941 million tonnes of greenhouse gases, overshooting its target by 976 million tonnes and only achieving a 54% reduction on 1990 levels.

Emissions are set to increase slightly from the fifth to sixth carbon budget as the UK’s contribution to international shipping and aviation are included for the first time.

The figures include policies that have been implemented or where funding was agreed and the programme was nearly finalised by January 2022, or July 2022 for power sector schemes.

They include schemes to make public buildings, private homes and social housing more energy-efficient and install clean heating systems, phase out coal and support renewables, and faster uptake of electric vehicles.

The good news is that there are things the Government can do right now that will also reduce energy bills for struggling households

The assessment does not include policies which have not been fully developed.

The figures are in contrast with the Government’s claim that its flagship net zero strategy – published ahead of the UN Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow last year – would deliver its legally required carbon cuts.

A spreadsheet which officials said detailed the projected emissions reductions from the policies in the net zero strategy was not made public, despite Freedom of Information requests, raising concerns it was not “credible”.

The independent advisory Climate Change Committee warned in the summer that there were significant gaps in the Government’s efforts to deliver on the net zero goal, and a High Court case found the strategy did not meet legal obligations to show how the legally binding targets would be met.

In the light of the new data, senior climate lawyer for environmental law charity Sam Hunter Jones said: “These latest figures show that the UK is currently not even halfway on track to meeting its climate targets in the 2030s and being net zero by 2050.

“Policies to bring down future emissions can take years, sometimes decades, to implement. So there is absolutely no time to lose.

“The good news is that there are things the Government can do right now that will also reduce energy bills for struggling households.

“Home insulation, low-carbon heating and more renewables will have an immediate impact to bring down energy bills and emissions.”

He added: “The cost of current chaos in Westminster is inaction, and it couldn’t come at a worse time for our rapidly heating planet.”

A BEIS spokesperson said: “It is not true to suggest that the UK will miss its sixth carbon budget. Energy and emissions projections are not predictions of what will happen in the future and do not include many of the policies announced in the net zero strategy.

“The energy and emissions projections only include policies that have been implemented and those that are planned where the level of funding has been agreed and the design of the policy is near final.”

The new Prime Minister mustn’t wait until legally obliged before raising his government’s ambition on climate

But Rebecca Newsom, from Greenpeace UK, said: “The government has finally had to admit what its independent climate advisers and the High Court have been saying for months: there’s a gaping chasm between the UK’s climate goals and the policies needed to make them a reality.

“Our new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has a golden opportunity to set the record straight by immediately announcing win-win solutions at next Monday’s fiscal event.

“People need permanently lower bills; that means extra financial support for households, extra funding for a national home insulation programme, and a proper windfall tax on obscene fossil fuel company profits to pay for it.

“Sunak should follow this up with a comprehensive, fit-for-purpose net zero strategy to set the UK on track as a matter of urgency.”

Tony Bosworth, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “With climate targets shown to be way off track, this raises the stakes for the revised net zero strategy the government has been ordered by the courts to produce by the end of March next year, which must show how the numbers add up.

“The new Prime Minister mustn’t wait until legally obliged before raising his government’s ambition on climate and rebuilding the UK’s reputation internationally.

“He can make an enormous difference to both the cost of living and climate emergencies today by putting a nationwide insulation programme at the very top of his agenda, which would stop homes going cold and reduce harmful emissions.

“This should be done alongside unlocking the UK’s full potential for cheap, clean and popular renewable energy.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox