Originally published on Bright Green
The government likes to brandish its “legally binding” 2050 net-zero carbon emissions goal like a protective sword. See we’re “world-leading”, they cry, even while the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) points out the nation is not on track to deliver even this inadequate goal, the official “10-point plan” for delivery bears every sign of being sketched out on the back of an envelope, and the much-vaunted Green Homes Grant scheme has collapsed into chaos.
Saying we’ll do something by 2050, is effectively saying we’ll do almost nothing, as many critics have pointed out. That’s at least five governments away on our current track, probably many more prime ministers hence. The target should be 2030.
That’s on the basis of scientific need, and on the fact that carbon cut now is far more valuable than that later, in slowing our speed towards the crucial 1.5-degree target agreed at the Paris climate talks. But also because given the rapid political cycle in the UK, the inability to deliver longterm planning and thinking the only way to guarantee action is to force it now.
But, some cry, we can’t see the exact way forward to that 2030 zero goal. And no we can’t. We never have been able to.
Howard Macmillan may or may not have ever said “events, dear boy, events” when asked what knocks governments off course, but you don’t need to be a historian or an accountant to know that no party’s election manifesto in history – focused on the national economy, as they have inevitably been – has ever at the end of its term reflected how the economy turned out.
As Greens, we want to see carbon accounting given the same importance, accounted for in a similar way, as pounds and pence – the CCC given the same importance as the Office for Budget Responsibility has been this week, but we have to acknowledge that we can’t map out a perfect route to it (although we can do a lot better than the government’s efforts).