Flooding in the UK is now 11 per cent worse than it was a decade ago, and that’s all down to climate change.
Looking forward, the future looks bleak. Heatwaves are more likely to occur in the UK and Europe, soaring levels of mercury in the sea could make cod too dangerous for humans to eat, and even flight turbulence could become three times worse.
But it seems Brits are paying attention. A recent poll found 85 per cent of UK adults are now worried about the future of the planet.
We can all do our bit to try and go green, but what is the Government doing to tackle climate change, and is it working?
Climate Change Act
The Climate Change Act 2008 was the world’s first ‘legally-binding national commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions’
One of the main ways the UK is tackling climate change is through the Climate Change Act.
Passed in 2008, it became the world’s first ‘legally-binding national commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions’.
Under the Act, the UK must reduce greenhouse emissions by 80 per cent by the year 2050.
Crucially, the Act also created the independent, statutory body called the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), which advises the UK government on its emissions targets and reports to Parliament on the progress made.
The Paris Agreement
The UK was one of the signatories of the 2015 Paris Agreement, pledging to keep global temperatures below 2C by 2050
In 2015, the UK was one of the signatories of the Paris Agreement, a landmark agreement by most of the world’s countries to keep the increase in the global temperatures below a potentially dangerous 2C.
The deal is to limit warming to no more than 1.5°C by 2050. As part of the agreement, each country must review its efforts to cut emissions every five years.
Major nations must also help developing countries fight climate change and adapt to its effects.
Net-zero by 2050
In June 2019, Theresa May’s government pledged to cut gas emissions to zero by the year 2050, becoming the first developed nation to set this goal
The Climate Change Act committed the UK to lowering its emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.
But in June 2019, Theresa May’s Government pledged to cut gas emissions to almost zero by that deadline, becoming the first developed nation to set this goal.
In order to achieve it, emissions from transport, farming, businesses, industry and homes must either be completely avoided or offset by planting trees that can absorb CO2.
To achieve such a goal over the next three decades, all areas of economy and industry need to change.
There will need to be more low-carbon power, more electric vehicles, and a plan on how to tackle commercial flight emissions, how homes are built and heated, and much more.
The UK has met its first three targets on carbon budgets, but is not currently on course to meet them after 2022
Part of the Committee on Climate Change’s remit is to propose carbon budgets and set targets for the UK to hit.
These budgets restrict the amount of greenhouse gas the UK can legally emit over a five year period.
The UK is currently in the third carbon budget period (2018 to 2022) since it began, and is on track to meet the 37 per cent reduction.
However, it is not on track to meet the fourth or fifth budgets of a 51 per cent reduction by 2025 and a 57 per cent reduction by 2030.
Carbon pricing through a cap-and-trade market system is one of the main ways the UK is tackling climate change
One of the key ways the UK is trying to tackle climate change is through something called carbon pricing.
Instead of a carbon tax, Britain uses a cap-and-trade scheme. This is where a country has a quota for the amount of pollution it can produce set in advance.
British companies in industries such as iron, steel and oil have to join the European Union Trading Scheme, under which they can get emissions permits and trade them at the market rate.
Shift towards low-carbon energy
The UK has pledged to generate a third of its electricity through wind energy by 2030 through the Contracts for Difference scheme
In March 2019, the UK pledged to generate a third of its electricity by offshore wind energy by 2030. This means there will be more electricity from renewable energy than from fossil fuels.
The UK also supports low-carbon solutions through something called the Contracts for Difference scheme, designed to encourage investment in renewable energy through fixed prices and stable incomes.
Official data revealed that in 2018, low-carbon energy was used to generate more than half of the electricity used in the UK.
Cities such as London, Bristol and Manchester are implementing schemes, laws and initiatives that help tackle climate change on a sub-national level
The UK is also tackling climate change on sub-national levels.
In 2019, the Mayor of London introduced the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) designed to tackle air pollution in the capital by reducing the number of polluting cars through a new £12.50 fee. This is on top of the daily £11.50 congestion charge.
It is estimated that the scheme will reduce toxic emissions from road vehicles by nearly 50 per cent in two years.
The capital is also planning to celebrate Car Free Day at the end of September, which will see 20km of roads closed to make way for free activities such as yoga and cycling.
Meanwhile, in Bristol there are plans to double the city’s tree canopy from the current 15 per cent to 30 per cent by 2050.
And in Manchester, there are plans to plant three million trees by the early 2040s.
When the Amazon rainforest fires broke out, the UK made an immediate donation of £10 million
The UK is also tackling climate change abroad.
At the end of August, it announced it would double the amount it spends on climate change from £720 million to £1.44 billion.
As part of the Paris Agreement, Britain pledged to double spending on clean energy initiatives.
When the recent Amazon fires broke out, the UK made an immediate donation of £10 million.
So are UK climate change efforts working?
The UK is lagging far behind what is needed to meet even the less stringent emissions targets, a 2019 report by the Committee on Climate Change says
In 2018, emissions were 44 per cent below levels seen in the 1990s, but there’s still a long way to go.
A Committee on Climate Change report from July 2019 said: ‘UK action to curb greenhouse gas emissions is lagging far behind what is needed, even to meet previous, less stringent, emissions targets’.
It stated that over the last year, the Government delivered on just one of 25 critical policies needed to get emissions reductions back on track.
Of 33 key sectors assessed by the Committee, ‘none show good progress when it comes to managing climate change risk’.
In order to meet the UK’s legally-binding emissions targets, the Committee said the public must be fully engaged in net-zero transition by switching to lower carbon technologies.
The UK must also lead international action to tackle climate change using its potential position as host of the UN Climate Change Conference at the end of 2020, which, if selected, will take place in Glasgow.