The UK is unlikely to meet the current target of 60 per cent cuts by 2030 yet is introducing an even more ambitious target which the Treasury estimates will cost £1 trillion.
Politicians are making a habit of introducing legally binding climate change targets that they then leave to others to deliver. As one of her “legacy” policies, Theresa May has authorised a new and binding 2050 carbon-free deadline which has had campaigners purring with delight. This is historic, they say. The UK is a beacon to the rest of the world.
Reducing carbon emissions as part of global efforts to reduce warming is a legitimate policy that has seen considerable cuts in recent years and more investment in renewables. But as we shut down fossil fuel-burning industries and replace them with imported products, all we are doing is exporting those emissions to countries that are not making similar reductions if any at all.
Globally, renewable energy has increased only marginally since world leaders attending the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 committed to tackling climate change. The UK is unlikely to meet the current target of 80 per cent cuts by 2030 yet is introducing an even more ambitious target which the Treasury estimates will cost £1 trillion.
Supporters say this is a small amount annually when spread over 30 years, but it still represents a slow-down in economic growth about which they are not being entirely straightforward with the public. UN modelling suggests meeting the net zero carbon target by 2050 would cost 5.3 per cent of GDP – an annual cost of £187 billion for the UK assuming the policy’s efficient implementation. Other studies say it could be far higher without making a significant impact on global emissions.
A better approach than setting impossible targets is to encourage investment in green energy research, development and new technologies.