May 24, 2024

Why former climate pioneer Great Britain is falling behind its targets

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The last coal-fired power station in Radcliffe-on-Thor will close at the end of September. © IMAGO/Pond5 Images

Rishi Sunak’s government must improve its climate plans after losing in the High Court. And the coalition collapsed even on the issue of climate protection in Scotland.

In Britain, the gap between lofty plans and reality is leading to embarrassing setbacks in climate policy. Last week, London’s High Court dismissed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative government’s climate plan as insufficient and overly optimistic. In Edinburgh, Scotland’s Prime Minister Hamza Youssef was forced to resign after the premature collapse of his coalition with the Green Party. The controversy was fueled, among other things, by dealing with an important milestone on the way to climate neutrality (“net zero”).

Over the years, Empire has been happy to be a pioneer in climate protection. Labor Prime Minister Gordon Brown (2007–10) created a Ministry for “Energy Security and Net Zero”. In 2008, the Act set a goal of reducing climate-damaging emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Conservative governments followed this policy. Under Prime Minister Theresa May (2016–19), the island became the first western industrialized country to set a legal climate neutrality target for 2050. His successor, Boris Johnson (2019-22), set a mid-term target to cut emissions by 68 percent. 2030.

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Oversight and monitoring of the ambitious targets will be carried out by an independent Commission on Climate Change (CCC) made up of renowned experts, chaired for eleven years until 2023 by former Tory environment minister John Comer. Their reports have become more and more pessimistic recently. It has diluted key positions for both Sunak’s government and the Labor opposition, with all polls predicting victory in the next general election in the autumn.

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The High Court’s most recent actions – based on a case brought by several environmental groups against the government’s climate plan – are a reaction to a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court two years ago. Lobby groups such as Friends of the Earth argued that the government document contained too little information about the potential risks on the way to net zero goals, which were fully announced. They also criticized the belief in carbon capture and storage (CCS), i.e. storing harmful greenhouse gases underground in unused mines. Ruling in favor of the petitioners, the court ordered the government to submit a new climate plan within a year. Undeterred, the ministry said, “the Kingdom should be very proud of its actions against climate change”.

In Scotland, the CCC viewed with suspicion the statements and actions of Yusuf’s SNP government, which has been working in a formal agreement with the Greens since 2021. In March, the group announced it was “no longer confident” the Scottish Government could meet its 2030 emissions reduction target in Edinburgh. So far, it has concluded, the steps are “not sufficient” to be within the framework of the laws passed.

Climate Protection Minister Mairi McAllan immediately had to publicly say goodbye to the interim target. As the Greens later called a special party conference, the leader of the government quickly stopped co-operation. The weather was so toxic that the Prime Minister had to resign.

CCC people also have “little confidence” in the London central government’s climate target – a 68 per cent reduction by 2030. Prime Minister Sunak is seen as lax on climate protection. The head of government argued in the autumn that given Brexit and the continued poor economic conditions after the pandemic, one should not overwhelm the population. Politicians of all stripes have shown little honesty about the costs to the economy of ambitious emission reductions.

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Economists and ecologists consider this approach wrong. Chris Stark, who recently resigned as CCC director, recently identified the negative effects of the policy change. Kingdom “not enthusiastic” about investors in green energy projects. A planned auction of related government concessions for new offshore wind turbines recently had to be canceled because no company showed interest.

Stark attributes this primarily to US President Joe Biden’s plan to invest in the United States, but in an interview with the “Financial Times” he also cited domestic political reasons: since Great Britain abandoned the intermediate goals, it is no longer in global discussions. felt important.

Gummer, a former member of the CCC supervisory board, made more scathing comments about his Conservative colleague, speaking of “ridiculous actions” and “stupid actions” when he extended running hours for climate-harming boilers and petrol-powered cars in the autumn.

The experts’ disappointment extends to Labour. If they win the election, Labor wants to immediately launch a US-style package of government investments in renewable energy and a better home insulation package worth 28 billion pounds (32.5 billion euros) a year. Meanwhile, shadow finance minister Rachel Reeves can only commit to a fifth of that amount, or five billion pounds a year.