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The UK Will Miss Legally-Binding Climate Targets Without Urgent Action, Advisors Warn

The UK has already established itself as a world leader in cutting emissions — but if urgent action isn’t taken it will still miss climate targets, an advisory committee has warned. 

The Committee on Climate Change, which released a new report on Wednesday about climate actions, praised the government for putting environmental issues at the heart of its economic strategy. 

It “reaffirms the UK’s desire to remain at the forefront of tackling climate change globally,” according to the committee. 

However, while the aim to “build a thriving low-carbon Britain” is  “ambitious… ambitions alone are not enough,” it said. 

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The committee warned that the UK, if it continues at its current rate of change, will miss the legally-binding targets on carbon and climate change that have been set for throughout the 2020s and 2030s. 

And it would miss them by a “significant margin.”

“There has been a very fundamental change of stance,” said Lord Deben, chair of the CCC. “But that, of course, doesn’t mean there is not a very great deal more to do. There is a real pressure and urgency.” 

According to the committee, the UK has “made good progress in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions” since the Climate Change Act was passed in 2008. 

Emissions were cut by 42% between 1990 and 2016, and the UK is close to phasing out coal. 

Read more: 9 Brilliant Ways the UK Is Cracking Down on Plastic Pollution

The British government published its next ambitions in the Clean Growth Strategy in October — setting out the next steps to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change. 

It aims to put the UK on the path to reduce emissions by at least 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. 

But it doesn’t go far enough, according to the report, which identified a “gap” in the UK’s current plans to cut carbon. 

The report said that what’s missing in the government’s strategy is detail. While the steps laid out are positive, according to the committee, further action is necessary to turn the steps into solid plans.

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Examples cited in the report include the phasing out of petrol and diesel cards by 2040, with the first milestone being 40-70% of all cars sold to be electric by 2030; and giving all homes a good level of energy efficiency by 2035.  

And the steps laid out must also be supported by further policies, such as planting significantly more trees. 

According to the government’s strategy, the UK aims to plant 70,000 hectares of trees by 2025. But, at the current rate, it would take 100 years to reach that goal. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy told the Guardian: “The UK has reduced emissions per person faster than any other G7 nation and our CGS is the next ambitious milestone. But we have always said it is only the start of a process.” 

Read more: This Major UK Supermarket Chain Just Pledged to Be Totally Plastic Free by 2023

The report comes a week after Theresa May announced the government’s 25-year plan for the environment, including eradicating all avoidable plastic waste by 2042 — which was widely praised for its positive steps, but also raised concerns about the lack of urgency it laid out. 

The Climate Change Committee's report made a number of specific recommendations for the government: 

1. Urgently firm up policies and proposals in the Clean Growth Strategy, including: 
  • Phasing out sales of petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040
  • Increasing the energy efficiency of our homes by 2035
  • Improving the energy efficiency standards of new buildings
  • Generating 85% of the UK’s electricity from low-carbon sources by 2032. 
2. Develop and implement new policies to close the remaining “emissions gap” 
  • An extension of the UK landfill ban to cover other waste including wood and plastics
  • Higher levels of tree planting
  • Actions to reduce emissions from agriculture
3. Address the risks of under-delivery
  • One example is the timely completion of Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. 

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