Government must tell the public what it is doing to meet the UK’s legally binding climate targets argue Labour shadow climate change minister Barry Gardiner and Green MP Caroline Lucas.
Both Lucas and Gardiner told DeSmog UK that there is the need not just for increased government transparency on its plans for cutting emissions but that these plans must be credible, clear, and coherent.
New plans for reducing Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions are due by the end of this year, according to Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
But it seems the details of these plans – such as what is under consideration and who is being consulted – are few and far between.
As the department previously told DeSmog UK: “We are currently considering the right approach to reducing emissions in the 2020s and we will set out our proposals in full when we publish our new emissions reduction plan towards the end of 2016.”
New plans for meeting UK climate targets are desperately needed because, as a government update in January 2016 confirmed, it is unknown whether the UK will meet its 2020 targets.
And, following an historic climate deal in Paris last December, the question on everyone’s mind now is: how will the government address this issue?
Speaking with DeSmog UK, Gardiner said: “By signing up to the Paris Agreement, all countries agreed to strengthen their efforts to reduce emissions and limit the risks of devastating climate impacts like flooding.
“This government has talked up climate action on the world stage, but their inconsistent approach domestically means the UK is way behind much of Europe in achieving our renewable targets by 2020.
“Amber Rudd admitted to me in parliament that she knows the UK needs to make more progress in scaling up clean energy. But government needs to do more than hold consultations. We need clear, coherent action to fix the problem.”
Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton, agreed. She told DeSmog UK: “The government should be far more transparent when it comes to its emissions reductions plans. The green energy sector has been shaken with uncertainty recently, and people’s confidence in the environmental credentials of this government is at its lowest ebb.
“These weakness of the government’s carbon plans are, no doubt, linked to the fact that ministers make decisions behind closed doors with the big six energy companies and fracking firms, with the public shut out. We desperately need to bring about a completely different approach which gives local communities a voice and puts people at the heart of carbon reduction plans.
“It’s time that ministers honour the commitment they gave in the Paris climate talks and publish the credible emissions reduction plan we so desperately need.”
Question to DECC
The call for greater transparency comes after Gardiner put this very issue to Rudd during last week’s DECC oral questions. He said: “Surely one of the most important things that the Secretary of State can do to limit climate change is publicly to state how she will meet the shortfall in our legally binding renewable targets for 2020.”
Gardiner pointed out that, as DECC has acknowledged, beyond 2017 the department projects a 25 percent shortfall across heating, electricity and transport sectors. Eurostat data released last week also shows that the UK will miss its renewables target by the third widest margin of any European country.
“What assessment has she made of the potential fines the UK may face as a result of that failure?” Gardiner added.
Rudd, however, did not agree with the shadow minister, calling Gardiner’s description of the state of UK climate action a “catastrophic view of the progress that we have made”.
She added: “We are aware that we need to make more progress, and we have set out clearly what we will do during this Parliament to address the shortfall.”
One recent issue in particular that’s garnered a lot of criticism was the sudden cut to the government’s carbon capture and storage (CCS) scheme last November. This followed on from a series of cuts made last summer to many of the government’s green initiatives.
As Sepi Golzari-Munro, head of UK programme at sustainability think tank E3G, told DeSmog UK: “This Government’s moves to privatise the Green Investment Bank and the sudden withdrawal of funding for the CCS commercialisation programme are just two examples of a very worrying trend towards decreased transparency and contempt for due process.”
Gardiner agreed: “So far, this government has slashed support for, and damaged investor confidence in, Britain’s green economy. They have made it more expensive to drive smaller cars that are better for the environment, and they have cut funding for CCS. The Committee on Climate Change has said that without CCS the costs of meeting our climate targets could double.
“This government must urgently deliver the policies and action we need to achieve the goals we signed up to in Paris.”
Gardiner also highlighted the risks posed to health due to climate inaction and Britain’s continued air pollution problems – an issue reportedly currently being tackled by the highly secretive cross-departmental ‘clean growth’ committee.
“Each year in the UK 52,000 people are dying from air pollution alone,” he said. “If that many people were dying in road accidents, the public outcry would have forced government to act years ago. We must not let this silent killer continue poisoning our children any longer.”
Friends of the Earth UK energy policy campaigner Simon Bullock has also called for greater government transparency on climate change. He said: “The Government is off track to meet its current climate targets, and these targets also need to be toughened to be consistent with a fair UK contribution to the new 1.5 degree goal in the Paris Agreement.
“The Government needs to be clear that its new strategy – due December – will be in line with 1.5 degrees. It’s not a minor tweaking that is needed, but a root and branch overhaul which gets the UK off coal, oil and gas as fast as possible, to protect everyone’s security from ever growing climate impacts and risks.
“The Secretary of State should set out how this strategy overhaul will be conducted in the coming months.”