The UK government must “double down” on Britain’s climate leadership ahead of the Cop28 summit at the end of the month and be “ambitious and tenacious” to reach net zero, a cross-party group of MPs has said.
Tory environmentalist Chris Skidmore leads the group and said it was especially important that the UK play a leading role at Cop28 after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak rowed back several environmental commitments earlier this year.
“The UK must double down on its climate leadership, to be both ambitious and tenacious in our journey towards net zero,” Mr Skidmore said.
“This means taking action both domestically and on the world stage, ensuring we have the same enthusiasm for achieving our existing climate goals as our ambition for setting new targets.”
The group’s priorities for the summit include establishing a fund for loss and damage as soon as possible, providing money for countries already affected by extreme weather events due to climate change.
“A serious commitment to climate finance for loss and damage at this year’s Cop28 conference is absolutely to support individuals who are made refugees in their own country as a result of extreme weather events,” Labour MP Afzal Khan said.
“It is thought there will be 1.2 billion climate refugees in the next 25 years. With the impacts of climate change worsening, acting now is the only viable option.”
The group is also calling for a consensus on phasing out fossil fuels, a tripling of renewable energy by 2030 and a transformation of land use to “end deforestation and boost food security”.
“The importance of securing a rapid, fair and global phase-out of fossil fuels at Cop28 cannot be overstated,” said Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP and vice-chairwoman of the group.
“I’m urging the Prime Minister to seize this opportunity to show strong climate leadership on the world stage, and work with international allies to secure this agreement, otherwise our chance to keep global heating below 1.5°C will be in serious jeopardy.”
What is Cop28? – video
Scientists believe that a permanent increase in average temperatures by 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels would bring very serious changes in the climate that could be “calamitous” for the world.
The latest round of climate negotiations will begin in Dubai on November 30, with Mr Sunak expected to attend on behalf of the UK.
Government’s lack of long-term planning risks jeopardising net zero, MPs warn
Meanwhile, the Public Accounts Committee has said a lack of long-term planning from the government risks jeopardising the UK’s legally mandated 2050 net-zero target.
The committee said the government did not consider what levels of long-term investment might be required up to 2050 to support net-zero technology when it set out timescales for their development in 2021.
In a report published on Wednesday, the committee said that too often, the plans for supporting the progression of these technologies have been short term, putting at risk the large amounts of private investment needed to achieve net zero by 2050.
Overall, there has also been a lack of clarity for businesses and a lack of support for consumers, it added.
This comes following the government’s announcement that it would delay the phasing out of new fossil fuel vehicles and heating systems in September, the committee said.
The committee inquiry found that new low-carbon investment in the UK from both public and private sectors will have to increase by two to three times each year from last year’s estimated total of £23 billion ($29 billion) to hit the 2050 target.
Most of this increase would need to come from a private sector encouraged to invest by government action, it found.
The report said the government is dependent on businesses on the supply side to deliver successful innovation to reach net zero, but businesses are finding sources of public sector funding difficult to navigate and gain access to.
It also warned that on the demand side, developing new technology may be taking priority over focusing on the practical challenges consumers might face in taking them up.
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The committee said there is a lack of targeted support, a clear focal point for businesses and researchers, and continuing barriers to market deployment because there is no single person or organisation responsible for overseeing the performance of the government’s support for innovation.
On transparency, it said there is no clear mechanism for publicly reporting progress on government support for technologies which are priorities for achieving net zero such as offshore wind and nuclear advanced modular reactors.
It outlined several recommendations which included the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero working with the Treasury to set out its plans for supporting priority technologies beyond the confines of the current Spending Review period for 2022 to 2025.
“Our committee has warned time and again of the damage that can be done to delivering policy by the lack of long-term planning and funding from government,” Dame Meg Hillier MP, chairwoman of the committee, said.
“There is no more critical area where this is true than on net zero.
“If the government continues to leave businesses to peer through a haze of uncertainty, then that investment will not be forthcoming. Businesses and consumers need certainty.
“On supporting innovation for net zero, the government needs to agree with itself on what success looks like, what failure looks like, and report transparently on progress.
“Such basic building blocks being absent four years after a pledge critical to our very way of life was made is disappointing.
“The government must call an end to this faltering approach, or risk spelling out to industry, the public and the world that the UK is simply not serious about tackling climate change.”
A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero representative said: “The UK is a global leader in clean energy, having attracted £200 billion in low carbon investment since 2010, with a further £100 billion expected by 2030 – powering up Britain and supporting up to 480,000 jobs.
“On top of this, we are investing £4.2 billion into long-term research and innovation to develop the net zero technologies of the future.
“We lead the world in tacking climate change, cutting emissions by nearly 50 per cent since 1990 and decarbonising faster than any other major economy as we continue to drive forward our net-zero ambitions.”