As the world stands on the precipice of a potential climate catastrophe, 2023 is predicted to be the hottest year ever documented. Unfortunately, the momentum of greenhouse gas emissions shows no sign of slowing down. This alarming scenario is further exacerbated by the UK’s recent backslides on its commitments towards Net Zero targets. These decisions, taken by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, have not only sparked criticism from businesses, academics, and environmental groups, but also risk undermining the credibility of the UK as a global climate leader. This article seeks to explore these issues in depth, focusing on the need for depoliticising the Net Zero agenda and adopting a more holistic approach to tackling the climate crisis.
Analysing the Climate Crisis
The Heat is On
According to several scientific estimates1, the year 2023 is poised to be the warmest on record since the mid-1800s. This prediction is based on comprehensive analysis by global weather monitoring organisations like Carbon Brief1, Copernicus Climate Change Service1 and NOAA1. The mounting temperature anomalies are symptomatic of the larger issue at hand – the relentless rise in greenhouse gas emissions.
The UN Stocktake and the Climate Change Committee’s Warning
The United Nations conducted a comprehensive global stocktake of efforts to limit warming2. The findings were dismal, predicting a temperature rise of up to 2.6°C. Concurrently, the UK’s Climate Change Committee (CCC) issued a warning about the UK’s recent rollbacks on Net Zero commitments, stating that these actions could hamper the crucial international climate talks scheduled for COP283.
The UK’s Net Zero Commitments and Rishi Sunak’s Rollbacks
Net Zero Commitments: A Bird’s Eye View
The UK has been at the forefront of global climate policy, particularly after the Climate Change Act of 2008 and the Net Zero legislation of 2019. However, recent decisions by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak have caused a significant shift in the UK’s approach to climate change.
The Regressive Steps
On 20th September, the Prime Minister announced the scaling down of some of the UK’s major Net Zero commitments4. This included delaying plans to phase out the installation of new gas boilers and postponing the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans. These actions raised concerns about the potential politicisation of the Net Zero agenda, with critics arguing that it could be used as a divisive electoral strategy.
The Aftermath: Criticism, Consequences and Challenges
Business Critique and the Economic Impact
The Prime Minister’s decisions were met with widespread criticism. Many businesses argued that these actions risked the UK’s economic prosperity, energy security, and potential for inward investment5. They underscored the importance of maintaining the UK’s commitment to Net Zero targets for sustainable economic growth.
Climate Change Committee’s Assessment
The Climate Change Committee (CCC) conducted a comprehensive analysis of the recent developments in the UK’s Net Zero commitments3. After extensive number-crunching, the CCC concluded that the Prime Minister’s rollback of key policies would make achieving the Net Zero targets more challenging, thereby undermining the UK’s global climate leadership.
Public Perception and Voter Sentiment
The public reaction to these changes has also been noteworthy. The CCC suggested that the rollbacks would likely lead to increased energy and motoring costs for households. Moreover, a recent survey found that a majority of people who had voted for the Conservative Party in 2019 but had since switched their allegiance to Labour expressed their support for the UK’s 2050 Net Zero target6.
Greener Vision’s Report: A New Approach to the Climate Crisis
The Report and Its Premise
In response to the ongoing climate crisis and the UK’s political landscape, the think tank Greener Vision published a report advocating for a new approach to climate change. The report, titled “The Art of Seeing,” was developed through consultations with over 700 stakeholders, including local leaders, businesses, academics, and environmental groups.
Five Pillars of Unity
The report proposes a radical shift in climate policy, founded on five key Pillars of Unity. These pillars advocate for a holistic approach to climate change, emphasising the need for unity, transparency, emotional engagement, systemic healing, and global cooperation.
Greener Vision’s Call to Action
Depoliticising Net Zero
In the wake of the Prime Minister’s rollbacks, the CEO of Greener Vision, Claire Haigh, called for an end to the politicisation of Net Zero targets. She emphasised that climate change is a global issue that requires unprecedented levels of cooperation, necessitating an approach that fosters unity rather than division.
Urging the UK to Lead
Haigh further urged the Prime Minister to uphold the UK’s position as a climate leader. She stressed the need for the UK to maintain its commitment to the Net Zero targets, stating that the world needs the UK to continue leading the fight against climate change.
As the world grapples with the escalating climate crisis, it is imperative that countries like the UK, with a history of strong climate policies, continue to lead the way. The politicisation of the Net Zero agenda not only undermines these efforts but also risks the very future of our planet. The need of the hour is to adopt a more holistic, inclusive, and transparent approach to tackling climate change, putting the well-being of the planet above political considerations.