Alok Sharma, s former Tory cabinet minister who chaired the landmark Cop26 UN summit in Glasgow, has asked Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak to find other ways to cut emissions if the UK is to meet its international climate obligations, following last week’s dramatic U-turns on green policy.
In his first comments since Sunak’s announcement on Wednesday, Sharma was quoted as saying that “rolling back on certain policies will mean we need to find emissions reductions elsewhere, if we are to meet our legally binding near term carbon budgets and our internationally committed 2030 emissions reduction target”.
Sharma welcomed “the prime minister’s re-confirming unequivocally that the UK will meet our international agreements”, but added more needed to be done: “Ministers must urgently show how they plan for this to be achieved,” he said.
Recall that last week, Sunak said that the 2030 deadline on the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles would be pushed back to 2035, and the boiler phase-out by 2035 would be weakened. These moves are likely to raise the UK’s emissions in the next decade, but Sunak did not set out whether or how that would be offset by cuts elsewhere.
The government’s previous plans to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, and on phasing out gas boilers, were key parts of the UK’s submissions under the Paris climate agreement. Plans known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs) are fundamental to the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change.
It will also be recalled that at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow in 2021, Sharma fought to secure global agreement that NDCs should be updated frequently and should represent a strengthening of targets, to prevent any weakening or backsliding. At the Cop27 summit in Egypt, he spoke out sharply to rebuke countries that wanted to renege on previous commitments.
Sam Hunter Jones, lawyer at ClientEarth, a campaigning group, said: “Rolling back on existing policies risks going against a Paris agreement cornerstone of increased ambition, just months before Cop28 negotiations. The UK will now need to go even further in other areas, when it submits its next round of international climate commitments, to ensure the overall package is stronger rather than weaker.”
Story was adapted from the Guardian.