Bold climate targets are meaningless without policies to meet them. The PM should grab the chance to make Cop26 a success
Targets are all very well. But not if there is no way of reaching them. In which case, they are a sham. This is the problem now confronting the government. The UK’s stated goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 78% by 2035 compared with 1990 levels is very ambitious. “Remarkable” was the word used last week by Lord Deben (the former Conservative environment secretary John Gummer). He chairs the climate change committee (CCC) that advises the government. Its latest reports make an unflattering contrast between impressive aims and the absence of plans to meet them.
A strategy setting out how the UK intends to meet its net zero pledge is promised before the Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow in November. But there is little sign so far that ministers grasp the scale of the challenge. Not a single government department, the CCC finds, is moving at the necessary pace. Transport, agriculture, buildings, industry: in all the key emissions-producing sectors bar power generation, there has been an alarming lack of progress. Cuts to the aid budget now overseen by the Foreign Office mean that it too is implicated. Support for poor countries as they make the transition away from fossil fuels has long been recognised as a crucial element of the global climate process.
Nature’s financial value must be considered to avoid ‘irreversible’ degradation to biodiversity and land
The world needs to quadruple its annual investment in nature if the climate, biodiversity and land degradation crises are to be tackled by the middle of the century, according to a new UN report.
Investing just 0.1% of global GDP every year in restorative agriculture, forests, pollution management and protected areas to close a $4.1tn (£2.9tn) financial gap by 2050 could avoid the breakdown of natural ecosystem “services” such as clean water, food and flood protection, the report said.
The tougher target for carbon reduction could dramatically reshape the fortunes of several industries – for better or worse
Boris Johnson’s plan to accelerate the UK’s climate ambitions over the next 15 years, revealed last week, will hasten progress towards a carbon-neutral economy by 2050. The new target – to cut the UK’s carbon emissions by 78%, compared with 1990 levels, by 2035 – toughens an earlier pledge for a 68% reduction by 2030. This greater ambition could boost the fortunes of several low-carbon technologies which stand ready for a rapid roll-out. Here are the winners and losers from the new targets.
Hywind Scotland is breaking world records for maximum output and now other firms are competing for sites
It took 10 years to develop the first floating windfarm and it seemed to some a dangerous gamble to put it 15 miles off Aberdeen in the stormiest waters of the North Sea. But after three years of being in operation it has broken world records for maximum output.
Its success even outstrips the speed with which Europe’s other offshore windfarms, those standing in shallow water, have gone from being an expensive renewable option to a mainstream power source. Floating windfarms’ worldwide potential is even greater.
Without a clear plan for what he wants to achieve, Boris Johnson risks becoming a bystander at a crucial world summit
In November Boris Johnson will host the most important global meeting ever to take place on UK soil. The outcomes of this UN summit on climate change, known as Cop26, will help shape the fates of billions of people for decades to come. For the UK it is also the first big stress-test of its new role in the world after leaving the EU.
Superficially the chances of success appear high. The US, China, EU, UK and 97 other countries have now stated that by mid-century their overall emissions of carbon dioxide will be zero. The economics are aligned: coal, oil and gas companies are increasingly poor performers, while renewables companies are booming. The escalating costs of climate emergency coupled with the increasingly obvious benefits of an energy transition are rapidly altering the calculus of what is possible.
Government consulting on scheme that would increase obligation on retailers to take back broken items
The UK government is considering nationwide kerbside collection of used electrical appliances and gadgets to help improve the recycling of electronic waste.
Local councils in some areas already collect broken washing machines and toasters in schemes funded by waste collection fees that all retailers selling electrical goods must pay. The government is consulting on the best way to implement such schemes across the country and how to fund them.
Extra battery weight of electric cars means ways must be found to cut particulate emissions
You would think that battery electric cars, having no exhaust pipes, would emit less air pollution than diesel and petrol vehicles. A controversial study in 2016 said particle pollution from electric cars would be worse. Due to battery weight, electric cars are about 200-300kg heavier than comparable-size cars that burn oil-based fuel. More weight means more particle pollution from the wear of brakes, tyres and roads. This could offset the absence of an exhaust.
New analysis by the University of Birmingham, suggests that regenerative braking, where the electric motor slows the car, should mean electric vehicles are less polluting in urban areas. A study in Los Angeles found that brakes on electric cars are used for about one-eighth of the time of those on oil-fuelled cars. However, the extra weight of electric cars means they are likely to emit more particle pollution on high-speed motorways.
Technological advances combined with tough emissions targets are bringing the end of petrol and diesel traffic into view
The prospect of a cleaner motor vehicle fleet is drawing closer. In November, the UK government announced that a ban on new petrol and diesel car sales would be brought forward to 2030. Advances in battery technology mean the tipping point at which electric vehicles become cheaper than other types, without subsidies, could come within five years. Fast-charging electric car batteries are on the horizon, with five-minute “fill up” times in sight.
This is good news for the climate, with transport emissions one of the biggest obstacles to meeting reductions targets, nationally and globally. Also welcome for the UK is the announcement by Nissan that in future it will source 62 kilowatt-hour batteries for its popular Leaf model from the factory next door to its Sunderland car plant, instead of importing them from the US.
The concerted global response to the pandemic could be replicated for the fight against the climate crisis
In a world rife with disputes and divisions, there will be one emotion likely to unite most people at the stroke of midnight on 31 December: sheer relief that 2020 is finally over.
There’s no risk of overstating it: this past year has pushed our world right to the edge. A single virus leaping from animals to humans was enough to kill 1.6 million people, bring major economies to their knees, and cause untold anguish and suffering all over the world.
Home owners can get help from government schemes but but do they really cut costs?
When Graham Davidson and his wife, Pauline, retired to a bungalow in Norfolk three years ago they ripped out the old boiler and replaced it with an air source heat pump at a cost of £10,000. But this pricey replacement has turned into a moneyspinner for the Davidsons – and millions of British households are likely to follow suit in what is expected to be a revolution in home heating.
Davidson, 68, who used to work in the car electronics business, says it was financial gain rather than saving the planet that was at the forefront of his decision. But dumping the gas boiler has probably cut his household carbon emissions by more than half.