The Government’s own climate advisers have warned it faces a “get-real” moment as the bold new target to cut pollution to zero by 2050 is not supported by a plan of action.
Ministers have so far failed to cut emissions fast enough and policy is too unambitious to prepare for “what the science tells us is coming,” the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said.
It said the Government would be “embarrassed” on the international stage if it does not have the policies to make its new target workable by the time it hosts UN climate talks next year.
Committee chairman Lord Deben said that when experts looked at the current plans, there was a “tale of two governments”.
There was “one government prepared to make the big and bold step to set the net zero target in 2050, and that’s a very welcome step,” he said. But there was “another government that has not yet increased the policy ambitions to match, and hasn’t got a plan for what the science tells us is coming in terms of the changing climate.”
“This is a ‘get real’ moment for them.”
He continued by comparing the Government’s action on climate change to the hapless characters from the vintage comedy Dad’s Army, adding: “We can’t go on with this ramshackle system, which puts huge pressure on individuals, who are reacting well but the system is not fit for purpose, and doesn’t begin to face the issues.”
A new UK-wide legal target to cut emissions to “net zero” by 2050, which replaces the existing goal of an 80 per cent reduction, has recently been passed by Parliament.
In its annual progress report to Parliament, the CCC said the Government had to show it was serious about tackling the problem in the next 12 to 18 months. And it warned that action to prepare homes, businesses and the countryside in England for a hotter world is “less ambitious” than it was a decade ago.
The committee assessed 33 areas where the risks of climate change needed to be addressed, from flood resilience of properties to impacts on farmland and supply chains, and found there was no good progress in any of them.
The UK is not prepared for 2C of warming, the level at which countries have pledged to curb temperature rises, let alone a 4C rise which is possible if greenhouse gases are not cut globally, the committee warned.
A Government spokeswoman said: “As the CCC recognises, we are the first major economy to legislate for net zero emissions, have cleaned up our power sector, cut emissions faster than any G7 country while growing the economy, championed adaptation and set a strong example for other countries to follow.
“We know there is more to do and legislating for net zero will help to drive further action.
“We’ll set out plans in the coming months to tackle emissions from aviation, heat, energy, agriculture and transport as well further measures to protect the environment from extreme weather including flood protection and nature restoration.”