Demand for action on climate change is clear, Government adviser says

Demand for action on global warming is “rampant and clear”,  leading Government climate adviser Lord Deben has said.

Speaking ahead of the 10th anniversary of the UK’s world-first Climate Change Act, passed in 2008, the Tory peer and former environment secretary said he was optimistic about efforts to tackle rising temperatures.

The Climate Change Act committed the UK to 80% cuts in greenhouse gases by 2050, making the UK the first country in the world to sign up to national legally-binding targets to drive down emissions.

Lord Deben, chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, which was set up to advise the Government on the issue as part of the Act, said 10 years on, the political consensus on climate is holding and is “really quite serious on all sides”.

Lord Deben is the head of the Government's official climate advisory body (Chris Ison/PA)
Lord Deben is the head of the Government’s official climate advisory body (Chris Ison/PA)

But success in cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the power sector had masked the lack of progress on cleaning up transport – where he accused car manufacturers of not taking the steps needed – and home heating.

And there needs to be an “immediate reaction” to use every opportunity to take action, he said, for example seizing the chance to install on-street electric vehicle charging points whenever a road is dug up for utilities.

The Government should move its target for phasing out sales of new conventional petrol and diesel cars forward from 2040 to around 2030, to prevent the UK becoming a “dumping ground” for less efficient cars which cannot be sold in countries that are further ahead.

More action is also needed to bring in high energy standards for new homes, offer a better package for householders to get their homes insulated and ventilated and to allow cheap onshore wind where people want it, he argued.

And because of the Act, there is an imperative on the Government to take the action that the Committee on Climate Change has recommended as a cost-effective way to cut emissions.

“The problem for them if they don’t meet the targets, or get to the point where it looks like they’ll meet the targets, is that these targets are judiciable, somebody will take them to court and the courts will rule against them.

“That’s not good for a Government – then they’re forced into immediate action, rather than cost-effective action which is what we have recommended.”

He added: “I don’t want to be first witness for the prosecution!”

Lord Deben has also welcomed the Government’s move this week, as it marks Green GB Week, to seek advice from the committee on setting a net-zero emissions target, in line with international commitments on climate change.

In an interview with the Press Association he said he thought the experts are being listened to “right across the board”.

And there is demand to adapt to rising temperatures and take steps to mitigate the problem with action to cut emissions, he said.

“I’m optimistic, first because I think we’ve got real political will both in this government and the opposition.

“Secondly, every year it becomes more and more clear climate change is happening and the demand for people to deal with the adaptation and therefore increasing demand for mitigation is rampant and clear.”

And he said that 10 years ago it had not seemed likely the world would secure a global deal on climate change, but it was achieved with the Paris Agreement in 2015.

“Of course, we won’t all do the right thing, and there will be periods in which it doesn’t do very well, and of course Mr Trump will hum and haw. But the truth is the world has decided.

“We are making some fundamental changes about humanity which are really very remarkable,” he said.