You may have seen news this week on the UK’s journey to cutting carbon emissions to zero. We have written on this before when the government’s own climate advisers gave their views in a lengthy and important report.
New analysis now comes from the Science & Technology Select Committee, a group of cross-party MPs whose job it is to independently assess the government’s science policy.
Their assessment of current climate progress is damning, both on what the government has and hasn’t done to tackle the climate crisis. Earlier this year, the UK became the first major economy to pass a law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050. This sets a high bar, but is only meaningful if targets are followed by action.
What the committee makes clear is we need a set of ambitious and far-reaching policies to make real progress. Although there have historically been some strong policies supporting decarbonisation in the UK, today there is a widening gulf between the demands of the climate crisis, and government action.
The group of MPs identified 10 areas where government policy is falling short on the problem. Here are some of the key ones:
- Cutting grants for consumers to buy low-emission cars.
- Closing the feed-in tariff for small renewable generators.
- Increasing business rates and charges for small generators.
- Weakening building standards to reduce emissions in new homes.
- Weakening a major energy efficiency scheme retrofitting existing homes.
The government needs to start taking its commitments on climate seriously. But this isn’t just about the environment — it’s about the money in people’s pockets too. Scrapping the Zero Carbon Homes standard has added £200 a year to some peoples’ energy bills. If we can’t get the basics right, like insulating homes, we risk keeping bills unnecessarily high, while continuing to trash the climate at the same time.
How can we take action?
The committee provides a range of practical and common sense solutions to cut carbon emissions and fight the climate emergency.
These aren’t pie-in-the-sky solutions of the future, but based primarily on technology that exists today, demonstrating that meaningful action on climate is not a question of technology, but of government policy.
- Kickstart a new energy efficiency scheme to make people’s homes warmer and cheaper to live in.
- Support more onshore wind and solar farms – the cheapest form of new electricity generation.
- Promote community and consumer ownership of renewable power – a more democratic energy system in which people have more ownership.
- Large-scale investment in electric vehicles and charging points to clean up our cities.
- Create a clear strategy to make heating greener.
- Give citizens the tools to make informed environmental choices
These steps simply require the political will and vision to make it happen. Achieving net-zero emissions is a major challenge, but it’s one that we can rise to, and one that will deliver huge societal benefits: cleaner air, warmer homes, new jobs, and environmental protection.
The UK is right to set this bold target, and action to meet it will transform our lives for the better, but we need more than warm words to avoid a warmer climate.
The government needs to start taking its commitments on climate seriously.