According to the Climate Change Committee, the UK is no longer a world leader

The silhouette of an old coal mine wheel against the water

According to a government watchdog, the UK has lost its position as a global leader on climate issues as evidenced by its support for new coal and oil projects, plans to expand airports, and the slow development of heat pumps.

Government initiatives to increase climate action have been deemed "worryingly slow" by the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

It expressed "markedly" less optimism than it did one year ago that the UK would meet its goals for reducing carbon emissions.

The administration declared its commitment to its climate goals.

Former Conservative environment minister and committee chairman Lord Deben was particularly critical of the government's approach to new coal and oil projects.

He told the BBC that the decision to approve the first new deep coal mine in the UK in 30 years in Cumbria last December was "total nonsense.".

Plans for a sizable new oilfield off the coast of Scotland received harsh criticism from Lord Deben as well. Rosebank is anticipated to receive approval soon and has the potential to produce 300 million barrels of oil over its lifetime.

Lord Deben questioned how it was possible to tell African nations not to explore for oil. If we start producing fossil fuels ourselves, how can we ask other countries not to do the same?

Old fashioned coal mine wheel silhouetted against the sea
In Whitehaven, Cumbria, the government suggested opening the first new coal mine in 30 years.

By 2050, the UK must achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions, which means that no more greenhouse gases will be added to the atmosphere. These goals are legally enforceable.

During the COP26 UN climate conference in Glasgow in 2021, then-prime minister Boris Johnson made a commitment to reduce emissions by 68 percent on 1990 levels by the end of the decade.

According to the CCC report, achieving them is "increasingly challenging" due to "continued delays in policy development and implementation.".

The Committee emphasized a "lack of urgency" throughout government and "worrying hesitancy" on the part of ministers to take the initiative on the climate issue.

Graham Stuart, the minister of state for energy security and net zero, responded to the report by saying that the government had already achieved all of its carbon reduction goals and was confident in continuing to do so.

In response to criticism for continuing to support oil and gas projects, he emphasized that despite a previously unheard-of role for renewables, the UK would continue to depend on these sources for the foreseeable future.

There is no button I can press tomorrow, and since we will continue to depend on oil and gas even after we reach net zero, it makes sense that we should produce it locally, he told reporters.

He emphasized that there was currently no alternative to the new coal mine in Cumbria and that it would produce coking coal for making steel, not for energy production.

"A pitiful catalogue of Rishi Sunak's climate failures," said Rebecca Newsom, head of politics for Greenpeace UK.

The report, according to Labour's shadow climate and net zero secretary Ed Miliband, "exposes the catastrophic negligence shown by this government that has left Britain with higher bills, fewer good jobs, weakened energy security, and the climate emergency unaddressed.".

The UK was in danger of losing what he called its "international reputation and influence on climate," according to COP26 summit chair Alok Sharma.

He warned that if action wasn't taken in response to initiatives like the US' substantial subsidies for green industries, the nation would be left behind.

One of the harshest criticisms the Conservative MP has leveled at the government's climate policy was, "Resting on our laurels is definitely not the answer industry is seeking," he said.

table showing comparisons of heat pump installation in Europe

The Committee recommended doing more to encourage people to install heat pumps, insulate their homes, eat less meat, and fly less.

In addition, it stated that there needed to be a significant increase in the number of trees planted and the rate of peatland restoration, as well as an acceleration of the switch to renewable energy.

The report recognized signs of the Net Zero transition in the rising sales of electric vehicles and the expanding renewable energy industry.

However, it cautioned that instead of "more direct" encouragement of people to reduce high-carbon activities, the government still relies on untested technological solutions.

Planes at an airport
According to the report, we should be encouraged to fly less and criticized plans for new airport expansion.

According to the Committee, the government should be doing more to persuade us to take fewer flights rather than relying on the creation of sustainable fuels to, for instance, reduce carbon emissions from aviation.

It made note of the fact that numerous airports in the UK are planning capacity increases despite a CCC recommendation that there should be no net airport expansion. According to BBC research, seven out of the ten major UK airports have plans to grow.

One of the biggest mistakes made by the government, according to Lord Deben, whose second and final term as CCC chair ends this month, was not incorporating net zero into the planning process in the UK.

According to him, "you fail if you pass laws to do something and then don't provide the means to do it," he told the BBC.

The final report "does not show satisfactory progress," he lamented.

According to the CCC, the UK's greenhouse gas emissions have decreased 46% since 1990, largely because of a sharp decline in the use of coal for electricity generation and the expansion of the renewable energy industry.

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