Other countries believe UK is ‘slowing its climate ambitions’, CCC warns

The UK Government’s climate advisory committee has warned Ministers that many of their peers at the COP28 summit in Dubai believe they are hypocritical, calling for stronger international targets but pushing for fossil fuel expansion domestically.

Other countries believe UK is ‘slowing its climate ambitions’, CCC warns

Image: 10 Downing Street. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED. https://www.flickr.com/photos/number10gov/53201384529/

The warning is contained in a new report from the Climate Change Committee (CCC) this week, outlining how key measures agreed in Dubai should result in more rapid and joined-up national policymaking on adaptation and the low-carbon transition.

COP28 saw nations signing on to transition away from fossil fuels, maintaining energy security by deploying renewables and improving energy efficiency at an unprecedented pace. Key agreements were also struck on adaptation and loss and damage.

At present, the CCC has warned, the UK risks failure to deliver its fair share of these commitments due to domestic policy packages that go against the measures it has recommended. It has pointed out a particular disconnect between the global adaptation framework and the UK’s own national-level plan.

The CCC’s previous annual assessment of domestic progress towards legally binding climate targets concluded that the nation lacks credible plans to deliver around a third of the emissions cuts needed through 2030. The Committee also flagged loopholes in climate adaptation plans.

Several policies have changed since this assessment was published in June 2023. The CCC acknowledges that there have been some instances of strengthening policy, such as the launch of an updated Zero-Emissions Vehicle mandate and the passing of the Energy Act including a net-zero remit for regulator Ofgem.

Mixed messages

Yet the Committee has warned that there have also been instances of policy weakening and failures to strengthen ambition and action in other key areas. This, it concludes, has sent mixed messages on the international stage.

The Committee concluded that the UK is yet to find its leadership voice in international climate diplomacy after Brexit and COP26. It has a strong history and top-line commitments, the CCC has noted, but these are not being built upon to the extent that it would like to see.

In September 2023, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pushed back the UK’s ban on new petrol and diesel car and van sales by five years. He also weakened requirements for buildings to move away from fossil fuel heating and for landlords to improve the energy efficiency of properties.

Sunak and his Energy Security and Net-Zero Secretary Claire Coutinho have both spoken of the UK delivering more than its fair share of emissions reductions under the Paris Agreement to date, placing trust in market forces to drive future decarbonisation without the extent of policy intervention recommended by the CCC.

International climate observers would have noted that the decisions taken by Sunak in September added to the Conservative Government’s support for the UK’s first deep coal mine in decades and for oil and gas expansion in the North Sea. The Government is also pushing ahead with airport expansion against the CCC’s advice.

The CCC has outlined how these decisions were widely reported internationally and did impact how other countries interacted with the UK – and, indeed, framed their broader approach to negotiating – at COP28.

This could have a significant ripple effect on global efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

This concern has already been raised in Parliament, notably by Alok Sharma MP, who oversaw the UK’s hosting of COP26 in Glasgow in 2021.

The CCC’s interim chair Professor Piers Forster said the UK Government could do better in “framing” climate action as part of the solution to the UK’s economic challenges – and of adding to long-standing top-line commitments with appropriate interventions in the 2020s.

“We may be further into the decarbonisation journey than many nations, but the obligation on every country is now to push even harder,” he said.

Comments (1)

  1. Andy Kadir-Buxton says:

    In the UK Octopus Energy now have a heat pump that uses a gas that creates more heat, you do not need to change your radiators, it simply replaces your old fossil fuel boiler. And it is cheaper than the Government Grant to buy, we should all be told.

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