The UK is going backwards on preparing for the impacts of global warming and is failing to deliver adequate action to meet old climate targets, let alone its new ‘net zero’ one, government advisers have warned.
In one of a pair of damning progress reports on government, the Committee on Committee Climate Change said priority given to adapting to higher temperatures, such as upgrading flood defences, had been eroded in the past decade. The number of officials working on adaptation has fallen since 2013 and adaptation schemes have ceased.
Asked if the UK was going backwards on adaptation, CCC chief executive Chris Stark says: “That is indeed the way it looks.” His team found of 56 risks and opportunities around adaptation, 21 have no actions in the government’s plans.
“There really needs to be a proper national plan for adaptation and it’s not what we have at present. There are loads of gaps. It’s peripheral, and partial and incomplete,” he says.
The CCC says “there is little evidence of adaptation planning for even 2°C” of global warming, far lower than the world is on track for. “It’s realistic to consider much higher temperatures,” says Stark.
In a second report, the group was critical of government progress on cutting emissions, saying the gap between policies and carbon targets had worsened in the past year. “This year has not been a year when we’ve seen lots of big major policies put in place,” says Stark. “These plans we have at the moment simply aren’t up to the task.”
The committee found only one of 25 policy actions recommended a year ago had been fully completed – and that was simply a contingency plan on carbon pricing if the UK leaves the EU.
Targets to be missed
The UK is set to miss existing carbon targets for 2025 and 2030, and the CCC says the country is “well short” of meeting the new target of cutting emission to net zero by 2050. “A net zero target is great but it’s not a magical wand to cut emissions, you really do need a national plan,” says Stark.
The UK’s credibility in hosting a major UN climate summit next year hinges on an increase in action to cut emissions, says Stark. Whoever becomes the new prime minister must show leadership on climate change, he adds. Ending a ban on subsidies for onshore windfarms and bringing forward a ban on petrol and diesel car sales from 2040 are cited among the many opportunities for tougher policy.
Brexit does not directly impact on taking stronger action on emissions, says Stark. But he adds: “The biggest concern is…the ability of the government to give attention to this [climate] agenda.”
The government said it would set out plans to tackle emissions from planes, heat, energy and transport in coming months. “We know there is more to do and legislating for net zero will help to drive further action,” a spokesperson said.
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