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  12 Nov 2022, 10:10
Update : 12 Nov 2022, 10:14

UK cops flak over carbon-neutral pledges

LONDON, Nov 12, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - As world leaders and environmental experts
meet at the COP27 climate change talks in Egypt, last year's host Britain is
under scrutiny about its commitment to tackling global warming.

London has ambitious long-standing targets to help try to stop the increase
in temperatures and has enshrined in law its 2050 pledge for carbon
neutrality.

It has vowed under the Paris agreement to cut carbon emissions by 68 percent
by 2030, compared with 1990 levels.

Nevertheless, ministers have come under fire from environmental pressure
groups and the independent Climate Change Committee (CCC), a UK body which
advises the government.

- 'Way off track' -

Green lobby groups gave the government, headed by new Prime Minister Rishi
Sunak, a mixed reception and urged a raft of policy changes.

"The UK is currently way off track for meeting its legally binding climate
targets," said Mike Childs, director of policy at Friends of the Earth
England.

"Sunak made a good start to his tenure as prime minister last month by
reintroducing the fracking ban.

"But there are many important decisions Mr Sunak and his government have to
make to show real climate leadership."

Sunak, who took office just three weeks ago, swiftly restored a fracking ban
that was controversially lifted by his short-lived predecessor Liz Truss.

At the same time, Britain has sought to ramp up renewable energy and curb
coal.

"We are ahead of many nations on cutting our CO2," Doug Parr, chief scientist
at Greenpeace UK, told AFP.

"However, much of this reduction is attributable to the decline of coal and
the increase in renewables."

The CCC, in its most recent report, declared: "Tangible progress is lagging
the policy ambition."

It cautioned that "important policy gaps remain", including the need to
reduce demand for fossil fuels.

And the advisory body noted that CO2 emissions in Britain had in fact
increased by four percent in 2021 from the previous year.

- Coal mine -

In a faltering start to his premiership, Sunak first said he would not attend
COP27 due to pressing domestic commitments.

He was then bounced into a U-turn after former prime minister Boris Johnson,
whom he helped to oust, said he was going.

Critics contend Sunak did little to tackle the climate emergency in his
previous role as finance minister in Johnson's administration, which preceded
that of Truss.

Green campaigners want Sunak to scrap proposals for Britain's first new deep
coal mine in decades.

The controversial project, in Cumbria, northwestern England, has long faced
outcry from environmental campaigners.

And it is in sharp contrast to Britain's commitment to scrap dirty coal-
powered electricity generation by October 2024.

"Friends of the Earth and others are urging the government to make coal
history by refusing planning permission for the mine," said Childs.

He added they were also strongly opposed to more oil and gas drilling in the
North Sea, which Johnson and Truss had authorised in the teeth of green
opposition, particularly from direct action protest groups such as Just Stop
Oil.

Campaigners also want Sunak to allow more onshore wind power and increase
energy insulation support for homes across Britain.

And they have urged the Treasury to adapt tax policies to incentivise
companies and households to emit less damaging carbon dioxide, particularly
by introducing an expanded windfall tax on the profits of energy producers.

Yet campaigners remain unconvinced of the new PM's approach to climate
change.

Green spending was slashed on most energy efficiency projects before the
Ukraine conflict and the explosion of domestic fuel prices, they argue.

The CCC wants the government to align its net-zero goal with curbing the cost
of living, particularly via increased efficiency measures such as better home
insulation, to soften the blow of rising bills.

"So far, Rishi Sunak's attitude to climate action has been lacklustre," Parr
concluded.

"As chancellor, Sunak failed to even mention climate change in major economic
statements or conference speeches.

"And as prime minister, he only appeared at COP27 after being pushed into
attending."

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