The Paris Agreement has officially entered into force and we’re just two days away from the next UN climate conference kicking off in Marrakech.
A lot has happened since last December when the world agreed to limit warming to 2C, so where does the UK currently stand on its path towards achieving this goal?
We take a look at three of the government’s energy and climate promises we’re still waiting for.
Just weeks ahead of the Paris climate conference last year, former Energy and Climate Secretary Amber Rudd announced in her ‘energy reset’ speech that the UK would be phasing out unabated coal power by 2025.
The news was welcomed by many and a consultation on the proposed phase-out was due to be launched in the spring.
Well, spring has come and gone and the consultation has yet to see the light of day.
At the beginning of June, details of the coal industry’s lobby efforts to derail the phase-out emerged. We reported how, during a February meeting between government and industry executives, coal companies admitted the industry is “currently in crisis”.
Meeting minutes showed that industry representatives criticised the carbon price floor and the government’s phase-out announcement, arguing neither of these initiatives would help decarbonise the economy.
The Association of Coal Importers and Producers proceeded to request an “urgent” meeting with the Treasury to further discuss this issue.
But while the government continues to delay the launch of its coal phase-out consultation (the first step required before the 2025 phase-out plan can actually be implemented) this hasn’t stopped the decline of coal.
In the six months to September, more electricity was generated from solar power than coal in Britain. And according to analysts, the amount of electricity generated from UK coal power stations is set to drop by two-thirds this year.
Another detail revealed in Rudd’s energy reset speech last November was the fact that government would be releasing a new emissions reductions plan by the end of 2016.
This new plan would outline how the UK would meet its legally binding national climate targets under the Climate Change Act – something it has been falling behind on due in large part to a lack of progress in addressing emissions from heat and transport.
But since Brexit there has been no word on whether or not any such reset will be released by the end of the year.
In September the environmental audit committee warned the UK is “falling behind” on its electric vehicle targets.
The committee criticised ministers for failing to implement the proper incentives and infrastructure needed to encourage the growth of the sector. Increasing the number of electric vehicles is critical if the UK is to tackle both climate change and harmful air pollution.
In order to meet the UK‘s 2050 climate change targets, 60 percent of new cars and vans need to be electric by 2030 according to analysis by the Committee on Climate Change.
This news came at the same time as DeSmog UK revealed Exxon’s heavy lobbying against green transport policies.
And only a couple days ago headlines were made as ClientEarth won its High Court case against the government over its failure to tackle illegal air pollution across the UK.
Net Zero Pledge
Finally, last March, the former Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom (now Environment Secretary) was praised for agreeing to enshrine the Paris goal of net zero emissions by 2050 into UK law.
At the time Leadsom told Parliament: “The question is not whether but how we do it.”
However, eight months later and there’s no sign of if or when the government intends to follow through with this landmark pledge.
The Committee on Climate Change’s report on the implications of the Paris Agreement published last month argues that the government’s commitment to implement a new zero target is “not a case of if, but when”. This suggests that it believes now is not the right time to implement such a target.
But as the historic climate deal has officially come into effect, a survey by business lobby group the CBI released on Friday found a staggering 83 percent of the country’s top energy and infrastructure providers are “not confident” that the UK can meet its climate targets.
If the UK wants to maintain the confidence of British businesses, CBI argues, May’s government needs a “clear and credible” plan outlining exactly how it’s going to meet its commitments agreed in Paris last year.
Photo: Number 10 via Flickr | CC 2.0