UK climate credentials at risk, warns government advisor

Most UK carbon-cutting policies expire within 5 years, notes report, and must be renewed to keep emissions cuts on track

A vocal minority opposes onshore wind farms in the UK, the cheapest large scale source of renewable energy (Flickr/steve p2008)

A vocal minority opposes onshore wind farms in the UK, the cheapest large scale source of renewable energy (Flickr/steve p2008)

By Megan Darby

The UK must refresh its climate policies or risk missed emissions targets and higher costs, the government’s independent advisers have warned.

A Conservative backlash against onshore wind turbines ups the pressure to find carbon savings elsewhere, or lose the UK’s climate leadership credentials.

Meanwhile, British homes are increasingly vulnerable to flooding as the climate changes, the Committee on Climate Change said in its annual report.

Government “must act now to set out how it plans to keep the UK on track,” said Committee chair Lord Deben.

“Acting early will help to reduce costs to households, business and the Exchequer. It will improve people’s health and wellbeing and create opportunities for business in manufacturing and in the service sector.”

In a model that has been emulated by other countries, the UK climate law sets out a series of “carbon budgets”. These map a path to cut emissions 80% from 1990 levels by 2050.

To date, greenhouse gases have fallen 30%, with an 8.4% drop in 2014 on a year earlier.

But nearly all the UK’s carbon-cutting policies lapse in the next five years. Renewable energy subsidies and regulations to cut energy use of cars and buildings must be renewed to keep low carbon investment flowing, the committee said.

Observers supported the committee’s findings.

There is “no room for complacency”, said former Shell chairman Lord Oxburgh, who is on the advisory board of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit.

If ministers don’t come up with coherent policies soon, the UK will “lose its moral authority on the international stage,” he added.

The report should be a “wake-up call” to ministers, said WWF’s Emma Pinchbeck. “Progress on deploying cost-effective measures has been unacceptably slow, creating a gap between rhetoric and reality.”

The energy and climate change department is set to respond in detail to the report in October. A spokesperson said government was committed to meeting its 2050 climate target and making “great strides” towards that goal.

“There’s still much work to do and we will continue to power our move to a low-carbon economy at best value to consumers,” the spokesperson added.

Read more on: Climate politics |