3.) Leading British climate scientist Kevin Anderson warns that our net zero legislation was never enough to meet our Paris Agreement aim to limit warming to 1.5°C. He explains that the Climate Change Committee held back on their recommendations, offering only what they judged would be politically achievable.
Anderson finds that the UK plans to burn around 2.4 times more than our share of the global carbon budget per person. Rather than report the unvarnished scientific advice, the CCC moderated its recommendations based on how rapid a pace of change it believed was politically acceptable. Regarding its 2050 net zero plan, the CCC states:
‘It would constitute the UK's 'highest possible ambition', as called for by Article 4 of the Paris Agreement. The Committee do not currently consider it credible to aim to reach net-zero emissions earlier than 2050.’
This stance was understandable before 2020, but covid has shown us that our society is capable of radical change in the face of an emergency. There are no prizes for trying when it comes to climate change.
What’s more, the CCC has taken no account of the UK’s historical responsibilities. As the first into the industrial revolution, the UK is one of the world’s largest contributors to atmospheric CO2 levels (5th in the world). Poor countries understandably believe that those who caused climate change should be doing the most to sort it out. By signing the Paris Agreement, the UK has already agreed to the principle that those bearing more responsibility for atmospheric pollution must cut their emissions faster. Yet we have entirely ignored this commitment in practice.
The fact that our plans don’t stack up seriously undermines the UK’s credibility as president of the COP26 UN climate talks this November. There is a need for realism and honesty. We believe the CCC should be asked to provide the Government, and the public, with the full unvarnished scientific advice - rather than building in failure from the start. And just like with covid, we would like to see the top CCC science advisors briefing the public directly on climate change at number 10 Downing Street.