The UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC) warned ministers last week that the country will fall short of its climate goals unless they take swift action to fulfill their pledges.
Although the UK is reportedly reducing emissions faster than any other G7 nation, the official climate watchdog said the government must develop more detailed policies in order to meet legal carbon targets.
The warning came less than a week after Prime Minister Theresa May introduced a 25-year plan to protect the natural environment. The plan addresses issues including land use, air quality, climate change, and access to nature. Specific targets highlighted by the prime minister include eliminating avoidable plastic waste by 2042 and all avoidable waste by 2050.
These recent announcements have launched environmental issues into the core of government policy, which marks “a major change,” according to the committee’s chairman, Lord Deben. Ministers have faced increasing political pressure to do more for the environment after Conservative think-tank Bright Blue identified it as a primary issue for young voters – a key demographic whose votes the party missed during the 2017 general election.
Although some have welcomed the environment plan as “a big improvement,” others have criticised its lengthy timelines for change and lack of concrete details. Lord Deben warned, “The strategy doesn’t deliver enough action to meet emissions targets in the 2020s and 2030s.” Speaking to BBC News, he urged all government departments to examine how they can reduce their impact and said industry must take greater responsibility for driving change. Construction companies, for example, must put more emphasis on building energy efficient homes. The farming industry, too, must work to cut its greenhouse gas emissions.
Lord Deben also recommended electric car dealers undergo training to understand their product and educate buyers. Currently, fewer than 5% of new car sales are “Alternative Fuel Vehicles,” which include electric and hybrid vehicles. The committee wants this to change – they hope 30% to 70% of new cars will be ultra-low emission by 2030, and by 2040, they want to phase out sales of conventional diesel and petrol vehicles. The committee emphasised to ministers that three-fifths of new cars must be electric by 2030 in order to meet emissions targets.
Achieving such goals will require quick decision-making. Richard Black from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit told BBC, “We’re not on track to meet emissions goals that kick in in just five years’ time,” leaving ministers “little time for enquiries and consultations.”
Climate experts and committee officials agree that although the government is moving in the right direction, good ideas are not enough. Concrete plans must be put in place quickly if they want to meet their goals. If they do not, the UK could risk losing its position as a world leader in cutting emissions.