Wed 19 February 2020

As hundreds of green protestors are arrested in London, NGOs sound the alarm over the UK’s empty promises.

Independent government advisors have revealed fresh evidence of the UK’s failure to tackle pollution, as part of an investigation into ‘Net Zero’ carbon emissions.

More than £17.4bn in public money has gone to fossil fuel giants since 2014

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), an independent statutory body, will formally report its findings on 2 May – but this week published a dossier of the evidence it has received.

The panel has been handed evidence from Global Witness and other environmental NGOs suggesting that more than £17.4bn in public money has gone to fossil fuel giants since 2014.

Climate scientists have urged governments to overhaul their approach to sustainable power. A recent report by leading climate scientists at Climate Analytics suggested that “for holding [global] warming below any level, global carbon dioxide emissions need to reach zero, and total greenhouse gases emissions…soon thereafter.”

A Zero Carbon future is feasible

We are still gripped by unabated fossil fuel use. Bluntly, we will need to move quickly to de-carbonise every sector in unison

Chris Stark, Chief Executive of the Committee on Climate Change

Since 2008, renewable energy has become cheaper and more profitable. The CCC’s chief executive Chris Stark told business leaders last month that the committee will soon move away from advocating a ‘low carbon’ future, to promoting a ‘zero carbon’ approach. He argued such a target is both affordable and achievable, but will require massive commitments from all governments.

“All signs show that we are still gripped by unabated fossil fuel use. Emissions continue to rise, and cumulative CO2 and temperatures with it. … Bluntly, we will need to move quickly to de-carbonise every sector in unison. And policy reforms need to start sooner rather than later,” he warned.

UK billions going to fossil fuels

According to analysis undertaken by Global Witness and provided to the CCC, the UK has lined the pockets of the fossil fuel industry to the tune of £17bn in recent years.

The UK anticipates developing 100% of our oil and gas reserves, when the Paris goals depend on us not doing so”

Stuart McWilliam, Climate Change Global Witness

Global Witness believes the UK should redirect billions in aid away from fossil fuel giants. It must also abandon its target to extract more fossil fuels under UK waters, which the NGO warns puts the Paris Accords at risk.

There are a number of areas where the UK appears at odds with climate change science:

  • the Government wants a “maximum value” of petrol to be extracted from beneath UK waters, but if the UK’s environmental goals are to be met, at least 85% of fossil fuels now need to be left in the ground.
  • 46% (£3.4bn) of the £7.46bn in aid that the Government has distributed to energy projects abroad has gone to supporting fossil fuels.
  • 99.4% of UK Export Finance support for energy has gone to supporting fossil fuels.
  • Between 2014 and 2016, the Overseas Development Institute found that the UK government gave over £14bn worth of fossil fuel subsidies.

Other NGOs have warned of the UK using political spin to distort its carbon impact. Greenpeace told the inquiry that the UK is ‘offshoring’ its carbon emissions by buying in products from highly-polluting countries such as India and China.

Friends of the Earth pointed to the UK’s Department of Transport as ‘particularly problematic.’ Flights must be curbed as ‘offsetting does not work,’ the charity warned. It added that a further eighth of the UK’s landscape needs to be carpeted with trees.

Government needs direction

The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) recently reported that ‘the overall strategy for UK International Climate Finance has not been updated since 2011, leaving key elements of the approach ‘unclear’.

Offsetting does not work.

Friends of the Earth

The Department for International Development has a £5.8 billion pot of money to invest in ‘climate finance’ internationally, but lacks a clear strategy for that funding, the ICAI has warned.

BIS Minister Claire Perry pinned the Government’s policy on the CCC’s ‘zero carbon’ probe. When MPs grilled her about the future of UK aid spending last month, she said Westminster was awaiting the CCC’s advice.

“[We are] the first industrialised nation to ask for specific advice on how we will achieve net zero, from our own Committee on Climate Change,” she told Parliament.

More stories filed under Fact