THE Committee on Climate Change (CCC), an independent organisation that advises the UK and devolved governments on climate change, has made it clear that the UK is unlikely to achieve the fourth and fifth round of carbon budgets as set out in the Government’s “Clean Growth Strategy”. This, in effect, means that the decarbonising of the heat and transport sectors will fall short, resulting in the government’s own targets for the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions not being met.

It is also apparent that the Conservative government’s own policy changes have resulted in this state of affairs. Even if all the policies in the UK Government’s Clean Growth Strategy are delivered in full, the legally binding climate change targets will still not be met.

Do you remember David Cameron, the landowner chappie who gave us Brexit, hugging a husky and vowing to lead the “greenest government ever’, a phrase he used in May 2010 when the Coalition government was being formed?

His government oversaw a fall in investment in clean energy of 10% in 2016 and 56% in 2017, resulting in annual investment now being at its lowest since 2008. The privatisation of the Green Investment Bank and a reduction in European Investment Bank lending following the EU referendum has played a major part in this. He slashed solar incentives and set himself against the advice of the CCC on implementing the zero-carbon homes plan. After telling us that carbon capture and storage (CCS) was “absolutely critical” for cutting carbon emissions, he scrapped a £1 billion competition to fund a trial CCS plant. He also removed the exemption for clean energy generators (Climate Change Levy) to pay carbon taxes. Well done Dave.

However, there is more. He introduced a series of planning regulation changes in England following the 2015 General Election and killed off the onshore wind industry. Contrast this with the Tory government’s recent adoption of a package of planning measures to support the development of shale gas. This includes, inter alia, streamlining and improving the regulation process to ensure that developers and local authorities are supported through the process and a £1.6m shale support fund to help local authorities deal with fracking applications.

Surely the May government’s legacy is better than this? Well, a belated climate change emergency was declared and in the dying days before she resigned as PM she adopted the CCC recommendations to end greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, thereby overturning the previous target by amending the 2008 Climate Change Act. However, as I stated above, this target is unlikely to be met, as reinforced by projections from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

There are several problems with the Net Zero Target, such as funding carbon-cutting measures abroad using International Carbon Credits. Another is the UK’s share of emissions from imported manufactured goods, as these are not included in the target, nor are aviation and shipping formally included. However, the biggest contradiction is the government’s support for overseas fossil fuel projects. From 2013 to 2018, the governments’ export support agency, UK Export Finance, spent £2.5bn on fossil fuel projects, mostly in poor countries, which risks locking them into carbon-based industries for decades to come. So much for the Paris Agreement that consigns us towards climate-resilient developments.

May abolished the generation and export tariffs for low-carbon energy generation in March 2019. This means it is unlikely that new community-owned renewable energy projects will be accredited after this date and that the Scottish Government target of 2GW of community-owned projects by 2030 will not be achieved. This initiative has been a key plank in regenerating the economies of rural Scotland and helping to counter population decline in these areas whilst helping to electrify heating and transport and help Scotland achieve its net zero target by 2045.

The CCC has estimated that reaching net zero could cost £50bn per year, while BEIS has put the figure at £70bn. I wonder if Boris has factored this into his No-Deal Brexit scenario.

Climate Change Emergency, lip service and soundbites are phrases to conjure with. Meanwhile, three cheers for Tess and Dave.

Gordon Murray