Britain is failing as climate leader, says top government adviser

Exclusive: Lord Deben warns UK's own efforts to tackle emissions are 'off track', while foreign aid cuts risk undermining his leadership on top priority for Cop27

Britain's year of global climate leadership has failed on many fronts, the government's top adviser has warned, just as the UK Police presidency is drawing to a close.

At the Cop26 summit in Glasgow last year, Boris Johnson urged countries to "stop with all their might" to limit global warming, arguing that commitments made at the summit would be "100 percent useless if promises are not followed up with action".

But with only a week left until world leaders gather in Egypt for Cop27, Lord Deben, chair of the independent Climate Change Committee, said Britain's own efforts to tackle emissions were "off track", while foreign aid cuts risked undermining its leadership in the top priorities for the summit. This year.

The colleague said that turmoil at the top of the government meant that Britain had failed to lead "anyone" on the issue in recent months.

This week the United Nations warned that there is "no clear path" to limiting global warming to 1.5C - the target of the 2016 Paris Agreement - as only a handful of countries have cemented their pledge to take action.

Rishi Sunak announced he would not attend Cop27, prompting criticism from Labor's shadow secretary for climate change, Ed Miliband, who said it was a "shameful reflection" of Britain's failure to make it happen.

Lord Deben said it would be "very valuable" for Sunak to go to Egypt, warning that the climate crisis was "the most important issue he faces" as prime minister.

He added that the war in Ukraine and the ensuing cost of living crisis, along with concerns about energy security, had distracted the world from taking adequate action on the climate.

Lord Deben's comments come amid reports that Sunak's former leadership rival, Boris Johnson, intends to attend the summit in Egypt, in a move that could cause embarrassment for the new prime minister.

Alok Sharma, a former climate minister who became president of Cop26 in Glasgow, said he was "very disappointed" that Sunak would not be going to Egypt.

"I understand that he has a lot of domestic issues he has to deal with," he told The Sunday Times. "But I would say that going to Cop27 will allow engagement with other world leaders."

On Sunday, cabinet minister Michael Gove insisted the government would "put in the strongest possible team" for the climate summit despite the PM's absence, explaining that there was "strong pressure on the prime minister's diary".

When leaders arrive in Sharm el-Sheikh next week, the "biggest issue" on the agenda is how to provide resources to help developing countries make progress without harming the planet, Lord Deben said.

The colleague said that the government's decision to renege on its commitment to spend 0.7 percent of GDP on overseas development assistance means that countries will find it hard to believe that the UK will deliver on its promises, which in turn will make it harder for the UK to deliver on its promises. persuade others to act.

He added that the government should make clear that after receiving Tory MP Chris Skidmore's review of net zero, it would move quickly to a detailed delivery program that "reassured the world that our commitments are not only in principle but also in reality".

Lord Deben praised Cop26 president Alok Sharma's international leadership, and said there was good progress in a number of areas in the government's domestic reform programme.

But he added that there were also large gaps in energy efficiency measures, new development, land use and agriculture.

In July, the government was ordered to update its net zero strategy after the High Court ruled it was too vague.

Government projections published this week suggest the UK remains on track to fulfill emissions reduction pledges it made before hosting last year's Cop26 summit.

In December 2020, the UK committed to reducing its emissions by at least 68 per cent by 2030 compared to levels recorded in 1990. Official figures show the UK will reduce its emissions by only 56 per cent.

Lord Deben said that while the government was off track in delivering a net zero, it was clear that ministers had a chance to correct it if they chose to do so.

A government spokesman said: “We remain fully committed to our legally binding target of achieving zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The UK leads the world on climate change and, between 1990 and 2019, we have grown our economy by 76 per cent. . while cutting our emissions by more than 44 percent, removing carbon faster than any other G7 country.

"Our net zero review will help ensure the UK's fight against climate change maximizes economic growth, energy security and affordability for consumers and businesses."

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