RTL Today – Global warming: British cops criticize carbon neutrality promises
As world leaders and environmental experts gather at COP27 climate change talks in Egypt, last year’s host Britain faces intense scrutiny over its its commitment to fight against global warming.
London has long-standing ambitious targets to try to stop rising temperatures and has enshrined its 2050 commitment to carbon neutrality in law.
It has pledged, as part of the Paris Agreement, to reduce its carbon emissions by 68% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
Nevertheless, the ministers have been criticized by environmental lobby groups and the Independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC), a UK body which advises the government.
– ‘Off the beaten track’ –
Green lobby groups have given the government, led by new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, a mixed reception and called for a series of policy changes.
“The UK is currently far from meeting its legally binding climate targets,” said Mike Childs, director of policy at Friends of the Earth England.
“Sunak started his term as Prime Minister well last month by reintroducing the ban on fracking.
“But there are many important decisions that Mr. Sunak and his government need to make to show real climate leadership.”
Sunak, who took office just three weeks ago, quickly reinstated a ban on fracking that was controversially lifted by his short-lived predecessor Liz Truss.
At the same time, Britain has sought to develop renewable energy and reduce coal.
“We are ahead of many countries in reducing our CO2 emissions,” Doug Parr, scientific director of Greenpeace UK, told AFP.
“However, much of this reduction is attributable to the decline of coal and the rise of renewables.”
The CCC, in its most recent report, said: “Tangible progress lags behind political ambition.
He warned that “significant policy gaps remain”, including the need to reduce demand for fossil fuels.
And the advisory body noted that CO2 emissions in Britain actually increased by 4% in 2021 compared to the previous year.
– Coal mine –
In a shaky start to his premiership, Sunak initially said he would not attend COP27 due to pressing national commitments.
He then backtracked after former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whom he helped oust, said he was leaving.
Critics say Sunak did little to address the climate emergency in his previous role as finance minister in the Johnson administration, which preceded Truss’s.
Green campaigners want Sunak to drop proposals for Britain’s first new deep coal mine in decades.
The controversial project, in Cumbria, northwest England, has long been the subject of outcry from environmental campaigners.
And that stands in stark contrast to Britain’s pledge to phase out dirty coal-fired power generation by October 2024.
“Friends of the Earth and others are urging the government to make coal history by refusing planning permission for the mine,” Childs said.
He added that they were also strongly opposed to more oil and gas drilling in the North Sea, which Johnson and Truss had authorized in the face of green opposition, particularly from direct action protest groups such as Just Stop Oil.
Campaigners also want Sunak to allow more onshore wind power and increase support for energy insulating homes across Britain.
And they urged the Treasury to adapt tax policies to encourage companies and households to emit less carbon dioxide, in particular by introducing a windfall tax on the profits of energy producers.
Yet campaigners remain unconvinced of the new prime minister’s approach to climate change.
Green spending was cut in most energy efficiency projects before the conflict in Ukraine and the explosion in national fuel prices, they say.
The CCC wants the government to align its net zero goal with lowering the cost of living, including through increased efficiency measures such as better insulation of homes, to soften the blow of rising bills.
“So far, Rishi Sunak’s attitude towards climate action has been lackluster,” Parr concluded.
“As chancellor, Sunak didn’t even mention climate change in major economic statements or conference speeches.
“And as prime minister, he only appeared at COP27 after being pressured to attend.”