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Cut the rhetoric and deliver on net-zero carbon, ministers told

Government’s own advisers demand ‘action now’ and say time is running out

MINISTERS must cut the rhetoric and deliver on net-zero carbon emissions, unions and climate campaigners demanded today following a damning report highlighting government failures.

As the government’s own advisers warned it has been “too slow” to take action, unions ramped up the pressure, demanding a balanced energy policy harnessing renewables and new technologies.

Their call came on the heels of highly critical progress reports from the committee on climate change (CCC), warning ministers that time was running out.

Outlining recommendations for a strategy that it said should be announced before November’s COP26 climate summit, the CCC said: “This defining year for the UK’s climate credentials has been marred by uncertainty and delay to a host of new climate strategies.

“Those that have emerged have too often missed the mark. With every month of inaction, it is harder to get on track.”

The CCC’s recommendations include action to decarbonise transport, update building regulations, restore upland peatlands, encourage people to eat less meat, make “adaptation reporting” mandatory and launch a massive public engagement programme.

It added that meeting Britain’s legally binding target to cut emissions to net-zero by 2050 would cost less than 1 per cent of gross domestic product per year — and could deliver a boost of 2 per cent by 2035.

Committee chairman Lord Debden said: “Global Britain has to prove that it can lead a global change in how we treat our planet.

“Between now and COP 26 the world will look for delivery, not promises.”

GMB national officer Gary Carter said that the reports had highlighted a gulf between government plans and action.  

He said: “To hit net-zero, Britain needs a balanced energy policy combining renewables, scaled up electrification, new nuclear and investment in hydrogen and new technologies. 

“The government needs to stop the rhetoric, deliver on net-zero and speed up work with local authorities, industry and trade unions.”

Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack said: “Getting serious about climate change means tackling the power of big business, which is driven solely by profit.

“Tackling the climate crisis requires democratic public control of key industries and huge investment in new green industries and jobs — only that will deliver the change we need with the urgency we require.”

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes called for “massive investment in the decarbonising of our economy — including rail and all forms of transport.”

Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said: “The government owes it to the country to take heed and get on with the hard yards of investment and delivery necessary to protect us from the greatest long-term threat we face and to realise the huge benefits that the transition to net-zero promises.”

A spokesperson for campaign group Labour for a Green New Deal said: “Across almost every sector, we’re failing to act at the pace that’s needed.

“Only a state-led, massive programme of investment can deliver CCC’s recommendations.

“Labour urgently needs to restate support for a Green New Deal with public ownership at its core, to wind down polluting industries and deliver a just transition for ordinary workers.”

The government denied that it had been slow to deliver, pointing to a new emissions-trading scheme, £5.2 billion investment in flood and sea defences and plans to decarbonise heavy industry and North Sea oil.

“Our forthcoming strategies on heat and buildings, hydrogen, transport and comprehensive net-zero strategy this year will set out more of the very policies the CCC is calling for as we redouble our efforts to end the UK’s contribution to climate change,” a spokesperson said.

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