How the next government can ensure the UK achieves its climate goals

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How the next government can ensure the UK achieves its climate goals

The pace of the UK’s progress towards net zero has slowed, so the next political party to take the lead in July will have to focus on accelerating this transition, but many climate professionals are concerned with the current political strategies on offer.
Recently, over 400 climate scientists created an open letter encouraging all UK political groups to deliver a strong climate plan for the next government ahead of the election.
The demands of the open letter include creating a credible carbon reduction strategy, emphasising that the election campaign has lacked detailed discussions concerning the UK net zero transition.
The UK has created some of the most ambitious climate targets worldwide, including a legally binding target to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and has reduced its emissions since 1990. The reality is, that the national race to net zero has slowed in recent years, with annual emissions declining at half the rate required to meet short-term targets.
While there has been significant progress in decarbonising the electricity supply, with zero carbon resources generating nearly half of all power, other industries are falling behind. Apart from the electricity industry, the rate of emission reductions must increase considerably over the next seven years if the UK is to achieve its emission reduction by 68% by 2030. UK climate advisors within the Climate Change Committee said it warned that the UK will struggle to reach its targets within the existing plans.
Emily Shuckburgh from the University of Cambridge explains that there is concern in the climate science community related to the lack of response required to carbon reduction strategies.
The slowing progress means problems have risen, with the next government facing new challenges.

Transport and Buildings
By the end of the decade, emissions from roads, rail and ships must reduce by nearly 4 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent, quadruple the rate from ten years ago. Electric vehicle sales are increasing, but the sales of electric vans and trucks are slowing, and the volume of public charging infrastructure isn’t growing quickly enough to maintain pace with the number of electric vehicles entering the market.
Getting the transport industry to reach net zero needs to go beyond shifting people towards purchasing an electric vehicle. Fewer vehicles and smaller ones are also a vital part of this movement. Michael Pollitt, from the University of Cambridge, explains that if people can use smaller vehicles or depend on mass transit, achieving net zero in transport is more achievable.
When it comes to properties, domestic heating is a significant challenge. Over 22 million properties in the UK are heated by gas boilers. All properties will need to transition toward heat pumps, but reports suggest this transition is moving too slowly.
In 2022, 69,000 heat pumps were installed in UK homes, way off the target of 600,000 installations per year by 2028. Part of the challenge is financial, heat pumps cost more than installing a gas boiler and cost more to operate due to additional levies on the cost of grid power. Pollitt believes that the pricing of heat pumps must be reduced to avoid a major barrier to decarbonising heating.

Nick Eyre from the University of Oxford explains that the UK government should focus on getting industries prepared for mass deployment. We recognise what is needed, but in the last few years activity has declined.
Farming and Aviation

Studies suggest that agriculture and land use emissions have stayed relatively similar in the last decade but must decline 29% by 2035. Achieving these reductions will result in significant changes to people’s lifestyles.

One of the biggest challenges will be creating these policies and regulations, impacting our daily lives. Leo Mercer from the London School of Economics explains, that unless policies are clear, people will likely oppose the changes.
Along with the domestic challenges, the UK must strengthen its reputation on the global stage after reduced progress on its national climate plans. With demonstrating that net zero is achievable and realistic as a national strategy, appealing to low-income nations to reduce emissions is a challenge. The UK must strengthen its reputation as a climate leader in the next Parliament.
Next year, countries must produce new commitments to reduce their emissions by 2035 following the Paris Agreement. It is a critical time for the global community, and the new political party leading the UK must ensure the goals are delivered.


UK Political Plans
All political groups agree on the necessity of achieving net zero by 2050, and there is a consensus from both Labour and Conservatives for additional renewable energy, focusing on offshore wind.
Labour has also discussed the promise to deliver a decarbonised grid by 2030, which some energy experts believe is very ambitious. Climate professionals believe a credible manifesto for climate action should include prioritising all areas where the UK has experienced slow progress, such as domestic energy efficiency, heat pumps, industrial emissions, and solar and electric vans.  The next UK Government must create a positive vision for the future that inspires and empowers the rest of the population.

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