Climate change: Current government policy will miss net zero target, report warns

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The government's existing policies will not deliver its flagship net zero carbon emissions target, according to a new report. 

The warning was issued by the Climate Change Committee, an independent body tasked with assessing the government's plans to get to net zero emissions by 2050.

Committee Chairman Lord Deben said: "The UK is a champion in setting new climate goals, now we must be world beaters in delivering them.

"In the midst of a cost of living crisis, the country is crying out to end its dependence on expensive fossil fuels.

"Quite a number of departments have not yet got into their stride and what we're saying is we haven't got any time to wait, this is very serious, it is no longer possible to ignore the fact that we will make this planet uninhabitable if we don't act now."

The committee's report singles out "major failures in delivery programmes", warning particularly of a "shocking gap" in policy for better insulated homes.

It says: "Government promised significant public spending in 2019 and committed to new policies last year. Neither has yet occurred.

"The UK continues to have some of the leakiest homes in Europe and installations of insulation remain at rock bottom."

The report also describes "glacial" progress on agriculture and land use, which currently account for 12% of the UK's carbon emissions.

Head of farming at the soil association, Gareth Morgan, said: "Government urgently needs to wake up to the scale of the challenge."

'Sleepwalking into catastrophe'

A spokesperson for the WWF said in a statement: "We risk sleepwalking into catastrophe if we don't act now to fix our broken food system, starting with tackling the devastating impact food production is having on climate and nature.

The Climate Change Committee report says that great progress has been made in renewable electricity and in the uptake of electric cars, and highlights that UK emissions are now almost half their 1990 levels.

But Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion said: "This report is an utterly damning indictment of government inaction. When we're in an urgent race against time to tackle the climate emergency, with the prime minister himself warning that we're at one minute to midnight, his own government is dawdling in the slow lane.

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"The CCC rightly points to the yawning gap between words and delivery. In truth, words are cheap. Boris Johnson might claim to be world-beating, but on emissions reduction, he's climate-cheating: you can't con your way out of a climate emergency.

"He claims to be taking action but he's not delivering - and worse still, he's actively pursuing policies that will lock us into higher emissions, and losing this unique opportunity for leadership.

'Forging ahead of other countries'

In a statement a government spokesperson said: "We should all be proud that over the past three decades, the UK has driven down emissions faster than any other G7 country, and that we have clear plans to go further.

"The UK is forging ahead of most other countries with around 40% of our power now coming from cleaner and cheaper renewables.

"This is backed up by £6bn of funding to make our homes and buildings more energy efficient, planting up to 30,000 hectares of new trees a year and more electric cars than ever before on our road - decarbonising our cars and vans faster than any other developed country.

"We are leading the world on climate change, helping over 90% of countries set net-zero targets during our COP26 Presidency - up from 30% two years ago. The Glasgow Climate Pact has focused the eyes of the world on bolstering action, including getting 190 countries to agree to phasing out coal."

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