Revised UK climate plans continue to fall short of delivering on internationally-agreed targets while new energy plans continue to back expanding oil and gas production.
Last week the UK Government released 44 climate and energy documents, including a revised version of their plan to deliver on climate targets. This revision was forced on them by last year’s High Court ruling that their climate plan was unlawful because it does not contain enough information to show how targets will be met, and, as a result, the Minister responsible should not have signed it off.
The Carbon Budget Delivery Plan is the revision of the previous Net Zero Strategy and does indeed contain more information on the impact of policies across all sectors. All of which shows quite clearly that the UK will not meet its international obligation to reduce emissions by 68% by 2030 from 1990 levels, with plans showing how to deliver only 92% of the necessary reductions. Even then the plans include big assumptions about unproven technologies removing carbon dioxide emissions and locking away the carbon.
The legal case was the result of three legal challenges brought by ClientEarth, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Good Law Project and the climate campaigner Jo Wheatley.
A similar challenge could be mounted in Scotland, where the current Climate Change Plan Update again does not contain enough information to show that the plans actually add up to delivering the targets.
The recent UN report on climate science prompted the UN Secretary General to call on developed nations to reduce emissions to zero as soon after 2040 as possible. The revised UK plan is still aiming for net-zero by 2050, Scotland’s target is net zero by 2045.
The energy part of the announcements demonstrated continued support for new oil and gas developments, despite new analysis showing that the just one proposed development – Rosebank – would blow the UK’s carbon budget. The aim is still to maximise production and 115 new bids are being considered.
There was of course continued support for the most unsustainable and more expensive form of energy production – nuclear power, although there was mostly in the form of things which have been said before and there was no new money promised. The new body Great British Nuclear gets a mention again but no new detail on how it will operate or how state support for new nuclear reactors will be funded. It will launch a competition to select designs for ‘small’ modular reactors. Hopefully it will be like the government competition in 2016 that produced little practical result and certainly no reactors.
There was extra support for industry’s get-out-of-jail-free option of Carbon Capture and Storage, but still no money for the one Scottish proposal, the Acorn Project near Peterhead.
Perhaps most disappointing of all the energy plans continue to ignore the one of the first things we should do, which is to make people’s homes more efficient. There is to be yet another consultation and a task force but no actual action. This is a problem for Scotland because we continue to invest large sums in this area and the lack of UK Government action means that money has to come from other budgets.
Sadly, UK climate and energy policy continues the crazy idea that you can have more oil AND be serious about climate change.
A version of this blog appeared in the Scotsman newspaper on 6th April 2023.