Government may want to hush up net zero failings – but I won’t


Boris Johnson claims to be taking action, but he’s simply not delivering – worse still, he’s actively pursuing policies that will lock us into higher emissions (Picture: Getty Images)

The Climate Change Committee – the Government’s independent advisory panel on climate issues – released a major new report this week, evaluating the UK’s progress towards net zero.

Not that you’d know. You won’t hear a peep out of the Government on it – they’ll probably be shielding it from public consumption, hiding it from the eyes of experts, burying it deep in the sand.  

They may want to hush it up – but I’m not prepared to keep quiet on it.  

That’s because this report is an utterly damning indictment of Government inaction. When we’re in an urgent race against time to tackle the climate emergency, with the Prime Minister himself warning that we’re at one minute to midnight, his own Government is dawdling in the slow lane.  

As the CCC rightly points out, there has been ‘little tangible progress’ towards achieving net zero. The Government is pursuing a ‘high-wire approach’, it says. Major policy areas are ‘in their infancy’. And it gets so much worse. 

Boris Johnson regularly claims to be world-beating, but when it comes to tackling the climate emergency, he’s nothing but a climate cheat, trying to con his way out of the crisis. Time and again he claims to be taking action, but he’s simply not delivering – worse still, he’s actively pursuing policies that will lock us into higher emissions.  

Not least, a new coal mine – yes you heard me right, a new coal mine, in 2022 – in Cumbria. Last week at Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson indicated that he was considering approving a new coal mine in Cumbria, on the grounds that ‘it makes no sense to be importing coal, particularly for metallurgical purposes, where we have our own domestic resources.’

Lord Deben, Chair of the CCC, has rightly challenged this claim – that 80% of this mine’s coal will be exported, that the steel industry’s market for coal is declining before the mine has even opened, and that it signals a total dereliction of our climate duty to reach net zero.

When we’re in an urgent race against time to tackle the climate emergency, with the Prime Minister himself warning that we’re at one minute to midnight, his own Government is dawdling in the slow lane

But actions don’t matter to this Prime Minister – as long as he’s talking up how ‘we can all be proud of the way we have reduced CO2 emissions in this country’, he can cheat his way round the issue at hand.  

There are barely 100 days until our COP Presidency is over. We have a both an opportunity and a responsibility on the world stage to accelerate real action to keep fossil fuels in the ground, turbo-charge renewables, launch a retrofit revolution and create hundreds of thousands of green jobs in the process.  

But why should other countries listen to a word UK ministers say, when their failure to deliver at home is so glaringly apparent, as this report shows? When we are building new oil and gas projects left, right and centre? When we are failing to meet our own net zero goals? 

We know what needs to be done.

When we have some of the leakiest homes in Europe, the cheapest, quickest and most effective way to slash household bills and clash carbon emissions must be through a retrofit revolution – a local authority-led, street-by-street home insulation programme.

Yet this report states that there is a ‘shocking gap’ in Government policy, and that ‘installations of insulation remain at rock bottom’ – and almost a year after the ‘slam dunk fail’ (according to Dame Meg Hillier of the Public Accounts Committee) Green Homes Grant scheme was scrapped, we still have nothing in its place.   

We need a joined-up, transformative strategy to help the agriculture sector to meet net zero, by restoring our peatlands and some of nature’s best carbon sinks.

Yet this report finds progress has been ‘glacial’, with woodland management and peat restoration ‘significantly off track’. This comes after the half-baked Food Strategy – which had originally sought to revitalise our natural landscapes, was stripped to the bone earlier this month, shamefully squandering an opportunity for action. 

And crucially, if we are to reach net zero we have to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Yet in the past month, instead of shunning them, this Government has befriended them – greenlighting the Jackdaw gas field in Scotland, a gas development in Surrey, with a possible new coal mine in Cumbria waiting in the wings.   

But this report shows that the Government just can’t deliver the goods. Rhetorically exuberant, but criminally negligent – our Prime Minister’s climate-cheating approach.  

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