Government ‘far off-track’ on delivering net zero, new report finds

The government is off-track on delivering net zero and its Net Zero Strategy (NZS) is fundamentally flawed, according to a new report by Zero Hour.

The cross-party campaign group has revealed that the NZS will fail to get the UK to net zero unless key points are addressed, such as its failure to put restoration of nature at the heart of the strategy.

Zero Hour found the UK’s emission targets are outdated and too weak to deliver a 1.5°C world, with the UK’s total carbon footprint set to exceed its global carbon budget by more than a factor of two.

According to the report, the strategy relies too heavily on the future removal of carbon using unproven technologies and does not acknowledge the use of natural support systems, such as land, soil and biodiversity, to regulate the climate.

The NZS also does not account for UK imports which contribute to emissions and ecological damage, which must be fully acknowledged for the strategy to have a real impact on global emissions.

Prof Andrew Watson, Head of Atmospheric and Ocean Science Group, University of Exeter, said: ‘Climate change, biodiversity decline and ecosystem degradation threaten our civilization. These linked problems have a common root cause – our collective failure to realise that explosive growth in our consumption has disrupted the “Earth system”: the cycles of energy and matter that maintain a habitable planet. Though the problems affect everyone on Earth, the UK can play an important part in solving them.

‘Our Government has recently set an emissions reduction target for 2035, a genuinely world-leading initiative. It is however now necessary to follow through on that, and to go further where necessary, guided by science. That is where there is an ambition gap. Government plans are vague and lacking in immediacy, but most importantly, the UK’s Net Zero Strategy does not adequately address the need to protect nature from the damage stemming from our energy use and consumption, particularly of food.’

Professor Watson believes while the problems are daunting to fix, we know how to tackle the issue and if the UK shows ‘sufficient leadership’, others will follow. Zero Hour is now calling for immediate action to rectify the issues.

The Climate Change Committee forecasts that decarbonising the economy will save around 0.5% of GDP, while failing to do so will lead to debt spiralling to 290% of GDP by the end of the century, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility.

Authors believe a transition to 100% renewable energy is a cost-effective way to achieve this, as clean energy is now nine times cheaper than gas power.

They also said nature is the best way for us to avoid climate disaster, advising that protection of ecosystems that regulate climate or contain carbon stores, such as ice sheets, forests, and peatlands, should take equal priority to cutting emissions.

Photo by Born & Bred Creative


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