The time is now to transform the United Kingdom into a zero carbon economy

A new report sets out the scale of the challenge. Now the government must act. 

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This morning, after almost a year of arduous technical work, the British government’s official advisers on climate change have published a plan for what our country needs to do over the next 30 years to prevent climate breakdown. It’s bold. It’s ambitious. And its message could not be clearer: we must act now.

The Committee on Climate Change’s 600-page opus focuses on how the UK can reach “net-zero”: the point at which the greenhouse gas emissions we emit have become small enough that they can be offset by processes that take them out of the atmosphere - most importantly, the process of photosynthesis in forests. The Committee’s advisers suggest the UK can reach that point comfortably by 2050 – a good start but many of us will be pushing the Government to move faster. Importantly, they say that we can do through a bold and challenging national effort, without relying on controversial international ‘offsets’ or ‘credits’.

Today’s report could not be more timely. Every warning light is flashing red on the earth’s dashboard. The 20 warmest years on record all happened in the last 22 years. Nature and wildlife populations are at crisis levels across the world. Wildfires and droughts are becoming increasingly common - with people in Global South already dying from the effects of climate change mostly caused by countries in the North. In the UK, communities are under serious threat from flooding, sea level rise, extreme heat, and more.

Climate change isn’t some future threat. It is here. And it requires that we act now.

Excitingly, today’s report is full of good news. For example, it finds that with the cost of renewable energy continuing to plummet, we can be much more ambitious on climate change without increasing the cost of doing so – indeed, we can adopt the new net-zero target without any additional cost to the public purse. It shows that we can radically transform our whole society - creating healthier, happy lives for everyone - and we can do so within a generation.

It also contains a stark warning: that the government cannot simply adopt a ‘net-zero’ target without radical change in the short-term. They say “a net-zero GHG target is not credible unless policy is ramped up significantly.” That warning makes it all the more galling that over the last 9 years, the government has scrapped many of the policies we know that we always needed: from flogging off the Green Investment Bank to scrapping support for clean energy.

Despite the reckless actions of the Conservative party, the CCC has made clear today that we can still turn this around, if we act fast. We can create place-based blueprints for how every community in Britain can transition to become net-zero - creating local economies that work better for people and the planet. We can retrofit every home in this country - radically reducing the energy we use in heating and bringing millions of people out of fuel poverty. We can plant millions of trees, restore peatland and our wild places, and invest in ecological farming methods. We can create new locally-owned energy companies that provide cheap and clean energy from the wind and the sun to towns and cities across the UK.

 We can begin to tackle the climate crisis and we can do it now. Significantly, this report comes the day after the second debate on climate change in the Commons chamber this year - after a two-year hiatus. The climate movement has broken into the mainstream - and it’s here to stay. Over the last few months, we have begun to seriously shift the political dial. Now we have a serious and credible plan for how we begin can make this happen. So it’s time for government to act. When we look back at this point in a generation’s time, it must be the moment that we decided to act - because if it’s not, it will have been too late.

Caroline Lucas is Green MP for Brighton Pavilion.

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