It’s clear that the Government must to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions after the National Audit Office warned that emissions will exceed government targets unless further action is taken.
In June 2019, the Government passed legislation committing it to achieving ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. However, the Government’s shorter-term emissions targets are actually set at a level that is less ambitious than will be required to achieve net zero. These targets were set on a trajectory to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050, not to achieve net zero. Despite this, the government’s own projections show that the emissions are on track to exceed these less-ambitious targets.
Earlier this year, the Government’s own advisory body, the Climate Change Committee, also made clear that the UK is not on track to meet the net zero 2050 target.
This week’s NAO report states that achieving the government’s target of net zero by 2050 is a “colossal challenge” that “will require wide-ranging changes across society and the economy at a pace which leaves little room for delay.”
However, the NAO also warns that that the “costs of inaction would be far greater than the costs of achieving net zero” because of the need to adapt to substantial climate change, such as building flood defences and dealing with the health impacts of higher temperatures.
The report criticizes the government for its approach so far, stating that it has “not yet done enough to ensure that all public sector organisations take the actions necessary to reduce their own emissions” and that the “Government has not set out clearly the roles of public bodies outside central departments in achieving net zero.”
In 2017, the NAO also criticised the Government’s decision to sell-off the Green Investment Bank, which provided investment to green projects, on both value for money and environmental grounds.
Government action has so far failed to match the scale of the environmental problems we face. While the German government is investing £36 billion for its green recovery, the UK Government has pledged just £3 billion.
This lack of ambition not only makes it more difficult for the UK to meet our climate targets, it also means that our economic recovery and industries are in danger of falling behind those of other countries. By investing in green industries and technologies now, we could create jobs here in Sheffield and tackle the appalling levels of air pollution that are literally cutting peoples’ lives short.