Climate Change Committee says government has lacked 'comprehensive strategy' over past year

Credit: PA

What’s crucial to remember about Thursday’s report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) is that this isn’t another campaigning document from a bunch of green activists. The CCC was set up by an act of Parliament, the Climate Change Act, which had cross-party support. Its purpose is to hold this and any future government to account on legally binding climate targets. And the committee haven't minced their words: “It is hard to discern any comprehensive strategy in the climate plans we have seen in the last 12 months,” writes Lord Deben, former Conservative environment secretary and the committee’s chair.

CEO of the Climate Change Committee Chris Stark said the government's strategy is "deficient"

“We continue to blunder into high-carbon choices.” You might remember the government’s decision to back a coal mining project in Cumbria only to backtrack on the plan.

Now it is poised to approve a North Sea oil development which, if it is approved in full, could produce 800 million barrels of heavy crude oil. That's equivalent to 10 times Scotland’s annual carbon emissions. Critics of the government were swift to point out their incoherent policies would mean not only won’t we meet our own “net-zero” plans, but that we’ll undermine any leadership on the issue Boris Johnson was hoping to show at the global climate summit in Glasgow in November.

Ed Miliband criticises the government in the wake of the report's findings

“We’ve got these big targets as a country,” says Ed Miliband the shadow climate change secretary.

”What the CCC is saying today is that there’s a yawning chasm between government targets and government delivery, which has frankly been woeful.

"Government has got to get with the program.” On Thursday, in two reports to government, one on cutting emissions, the other on adapting to the risks of climate change, the CCC calls for immediate action.

It said:

  • The government needs to bring forward the heat and buildings strategy to ensure we can keep buildings warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

  • Plans on greener road transport, aviation and food have to be delivered on.

  • Planning rules need to be overhauled to make sure all infrastructure projects are compatible with keeping emissions low and coping with future climate extremes.

The government rejects the criticism.

A statement from the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “Any suggestion we have been slow to deliver climate action is widely off the mark.

George Eustice says the CCC is aware that the government is working on a number of environmental policies

"Over the past three decades, we have driven down emissions by 44% - the fastest reduction of any G7 country and set some of the most ambitious targets in the world for the future, whilst driving forward net zero globally through our COP26 presidency."

“In terms of final settled policy there will be more things that are needed and we accept that,” admitted environment secretary George Eustice this morning.

“The Committee on Climate Change knows there are many different polices that are under development that we helped bring forward for the year ahead that will help get us to those targets.”