The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has cautioned that the United Kingdom may struggle to meet its climate targets following recent policy changes by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. These changes included delaying the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035 and altering rules regarding the phase-out of gas and oil-fired boilers.
The CCC stated that some of the most significant impacts would arise from a pledge by Sunak that one in five homes would be exempt from switching from fossil fuel boilers. This decision could mean that a larger number of UK households continue to emit carbon dioxide (CO2) from their heating systems beyond the 2050 deadline for the legally-binding net-zero commitment.
While Sunak has affirmed his commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, the CCC expressed concern that the exemptions would make this goal considerably more challenging to attain, create uncertainty for consumers and supply chains, and undermine confidence in electric vehicles.
The CCC also criticized the lack of transparency in providing estimates of the effects of policy announcements and evidence supporting the government’s assurance that the UK’s targets would still be met.
In response, the government defended its commitment to climate action and highlighted its progress in reducing emissions faster than any other G7 country since 1990.
However, the CCC’s chair, Professor Piers Forster, stressed the need for strong British leadership ahead of the COP28 climate summit in Dubai at the end of November, expressing concerns that the UK’s recent policy changes could impact global efforts to address climate change.