Tory Plans To Drill For More Oil And Coal Have Dragged Down UK's Climate Reputation

Government watchdog says it means the UK is no longer a leader on climate change issues.
Prime minister Rishi Sunak has approved of several controversial plans which have left the climate change committee worried about the UK's progress towards climate goals.
Prime minister Rishi Sunak has approved of several controversial plans which have left the climate change committee worried about the UK's progress towards climate goals.
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The UK is no longer a world leader on tackle the climate crisis due to the Conservatives’ support to expand oil and coal, and build more airports.

That’s according to the government watchdog, the climate change committee (CCC), who have condemned Downing Street’s efforts on the climate as “worryingly slow” in a new report.

It said: “The UK has lost its clear global leadership position on climate action. We are no longer COP President; no longer a member of the EU negotiating bloc.”

The independent committee said it was “markedly” less confident the UK would reach its carbon-cutting targets now compared to 12 months ago.

It comes after the UK approved of the first new deep coal mine in 30 years in Cumbria last December.

The UK had actually encouraged other countries to “consign coal to history” in 2022, when hosting the COP26 summit.

The CCC also pointed out how a major new oilfield is expected to be developed off Scotland’s coast, too – it’s estimated to produce an estimated 300 million barrels of oil across its lifetime.

The UK is legally bound to reach net zero with its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Former PM Boris Johnson also promised to reduce emissions by 68% on 1990 levels by the end of this decade during the 2021 climate conference in Glasgow.

The CCC did acknowledge that greenhouse gas have already declined 46% from 1990 levels but pointed that was largely due to swapping coal for electricity.

The CCC even claimed the government was showing a “lack of urgency” when it came to meeting these “increasingly challenging” targets, due to continued delays.

It warned there was a “worrying hesitancy” by ministers to lead on the issues and that more needs to be done to install heat pumps, reduce meat consumption and plane flights as well as improving insulation for our homes.

The CCC wanted the government to encourage the public to fly less, rather than hope for sustainable fuels to reduce carbon emissions – but, in the meantime, plenty of airports in the UK are now expanding.

The CCC continued: “It is critical that the UK re-establishes its climate leadership with a clearer strategy to develop Net Zero industries and technologies in the UK and capture the economic benefits of Net Zero, with actions that create demand-pull for the critical technologies that will shape the UK’s progress over the next decade.”

Lord Deben, Conservative chair of the CCC until the end of June, said the government should have put net zero at the heart of planning in the UK.

He pointed out in the foreword: “The commitment of Government to act has waned since our COP26 Presidency. There is hesitation to commit fully to the key pledges. This will not win the fight.”

Even Alok Sharma, chair of the COP26 summit who was energy secretary under Boris Johnson but kicked out of cabinet by Rishi Sunak, warned that the UK was on the cusp of losing its “international reputation and influence on climate”.

“Resting on our laurels is definitely not the answer industry is seeking,” he said, pointing to the UK’s lack of action in comparison to the US’s subsidies for green industries.

Campaigners in Greenpeace UK said the report was a “pitiful catalogue of Rishi Sunak’s climate failures”.

Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow climate and net zero secretary Ed Miliband said that the report shows “catastrophic negligence” from the government which has left Brits with “higher bills, fewer good jobs, our energy security weakened, and the climate emergency unaddressed”.

Energy security and net zero minister Graham Stuart
Energy security and net zero minister Graham Stuart
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Energy security and net zero minister Graham Stuart said that the government had met its carbon targets so far, and that it doesn’t look like the UK will shift onto renewables completely for a while – so we should just produce the fossil fuels here.

“There is no button I can press tomorrow, and as we will be dependent on oil and gas for decades to come, even as we move to net zero, it makes sense that we should produce it here,” he said.

It comes after the UK (and much of Europe) experienced a huge jump in energy prices last year when Russia invaded Ukraine, because the West started to wean itself off Moscow’s fossil fuel exports as part of their sanctions.

He also said that the coal mine in Cumbria would make coking coal for steel, not energy production, and alleged there was no replacement for that.


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