Leading scientists have said that expanding Heathrow is incompatible with the net zero carbon emissions targets the UK has set for 2050.
Experts have also highlighted that government policies are lacking in many crucial areas, including carbon capture, transport, and even home insulation.
Scientists have concerns that there has been so little action taken by ministers, despite the fact that achieving the net zero target will require the government to make sweeping policy changes.
The University of East Anglia’s Dr Charlie Wilson, a reader in energy and climate change, says that energy efficiency and home insulation are vital in order to reduce the carbon emissions produced by heating, however these areas have been left in a ‘policy vacuum’.
Professor of sustainable energy at Imperial College London, Jim Skea, says that systems are required in order to trap and store carbon dioxide emissions, however attempts by the government to get the technology off the ground over the last 20 years have all been abandoned.
Skea argues that the UK has many advantages over other countries when it comes to carbon capture and storage, but needs the government to step in. The UK has public backing for the technology, the infrastructure and skills required, and spent oilfields in the North Sea that can be used for storage.
UEA’s Corinne Le Quéré, professor of climate change science, argues that the government needs to make the net zero target a priority across all areas of policy:
“Every minister should have a plan for their own [policy area] on how to reach net zero,” she said. “Some infrastructure must be phased out. Ministers should be preparing in a way that is well coordinated and fair, so that the public are brought on board”.
Skea argues that no part of society and the economy can be left unaffected if we want to succeed in our attempt to reach net zero, saying that ‘we really need to do it all’. “Nothing can be wiped off the table. No sector can be left to not contribute – really, this needs contributions from absolutely everything,” said Skea.
On Friday, a group of six experts argued that the expansion of Heathrow, that was approved under Theresa May, was inconsistent with the UK’s net zero goals:
“I find it difficult to imagine we can control emissions from aviation if we continue to build airports,” Le Quéré said. “We absolutely need ambitious plans for mobility and transport. We need a plan that covers roads and airports”.
Professor of mathematical modelling of climate systems at Exeter University, Pierre Friedlingstein, said: “This is a clear example of not going in the right direction”.
No minister within the cabinet has the responsibility for achieving the net zero goal, with no intermediate goals between now and 2050 set either.
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