In the run-up to COP26, what 3 actions can the UK take to tackle the climate problem?
The UK’s Climate Change Committee recently released a report stating the UK is not doing enough to meet its requirements to cut carbon emissions and tackle the growing problem of global warming. Chris Stark, the CEO of the Climate Change Committee, expressed deep concern at the UK’s lack of willingness to drive climate targets; “So very little has been done so far to deliver on them – the targets won’t be achieved by magic. Afterall, the UK government has made genuinely historic commitments to slash emissions, setting a target of a reduction of 78% by 2030 (from 1990 levels). It would be a shame and a missed opportunity if we fail to hit those targets”. Mr Stark isn’t the only authority figure in expressing a sincere tone on an incredibly relevant topic. Lord Deben, Chairman of the Climate Change Committee expressed similar sentiments, in asserting “the delivery just hasn’t been there”, referring to a lackluster willpower in areas of policy which have traditionally proven difficult to navigate, for example, consumer diet changes and demands for flights/holidays, areas which are becoming increasingly complex given corporate pressure from the sugar industry in post-brexit trade deals with the US, and high demands for holidays following COVID.
The concern from the Climate Committee is doubled by intense criticism from cross-party MPs on the hollowness and ineffectiveness of government policies, and a shameful hesitancy given the strong commitment made by the government during the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Notably, the UK’s climate effort has repeatedly been scrutinised for its’ promoting of “quick fix solutions”, which in the short and long term, have been proven to harm biodiversity and are therefore in-fact counterproductive to the UK’s mission of achieving the targets.
The British government must develop a sense of deep conviction and commitment if it is to craft effective policies of a more holistic nature. Doing otherwise and continuing on the path of complacency risks jeopardising the UK’s position at the UN COP26 environmental and climate change summit in November of this year. A holistic approach requires a meticulously thought-through strategy to combat climate change and greenhouse gases over the short and long term.
The UK can take steps in 3 areas, namely insulation efforts in residential and commercial sectors, electric technology charging and smart tree planning strategies. Firstly the government ought to re-introduce the recently scrapped Green Homes Grant Insulation Scheme, effectively subsidising installation for improvements in energy efficiency, including schemes such as wall insulation and solar panels, for homeowners and private landlords. The re-introduction necessitates a resolving of the futile components of the scheme which significantly reduced its effectiveness in tackling the climate crisis, leading to its scraping earlier this year. This includes tackling the unnecessary hurdles faced by businesses and households, including excessive red-tape and therefore significant time-lags, and the difficulty in accessing the scheme for households.
The UK should also increase the availability of charging facilities for electric vehicles. Ease of access to free charging stations incentivises increased purchasing of electric cars, leading to consumer and environmental benefit; cost-savings on petrol and reduction in harmful petro-chemical pollutants and the demand for petrol and diesel falls. The electric car market has seen significantly increased demand year on year since 2012 and presents a plethora of opportunities for combatting greenhouse emissions.
Thirdly, the UK could also explore a smart tree-planning strategy, a frankly common sense strategy proposed by Professor Camille Parmesan at Plymouth University. Such strategies entail planting a diverse set of seeds that are native to the respective land and region, instead of a homogenous one-seed strategy which doesn’t take the regional biodiversity into account, and thereby increases the chance of failure as issues spread faster in a forest of one breed.
The combination of holistic environmentally-conscious solutions and the political willingness to ensure effective accessibility to solutions is vital to ensuring the UK remains in a favourable position in reaching the 2030 targets.