In the UK…

In categories:  Published by:  Duncan Harris, UK Delegate Jemima Longcake, UK Delegate James Miller, UK Delegate

 The Prime Minister of the UK Boris Johnson has announced the country’s new 2030 greenhouse gas emissions goals. The Nationally Determined Contribution, or NDC, targets a 68% reduction in annual greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by the year 2030. Whilst the UK Mock COP Delegation welcomes an increase in the ambition of the target we believe it falls well short of the level required to avert the worst effects of the climate crisis and bring about truly transformational change in this country.

Young people really care about the environment – surveys from Mock COP’s support organisation Students Organising for Sustainability show that 91% of young people are either concerned or very concerned about climate change. It consistently comes out either at the top or near to the top of the things that most worry them. It is our future in question and the present of many millions already on the front line of the crisis. The UK’s short-sighted politics is overlooking the climate crisis. They are failing us by failing to represent our best interests.

They are failing us

A target of 68% does not align with what the science says; it is not good enough to avoid the predicted worst tipping points in our climate system. It also does not go nearly far enough to recognise the UK’s historical contribution to climate change, especially as it is the citizens of the global south, not of the UK, who will experience the worst effects.

The supposed opportunity of independent, radical environmental legislation following Brexit alongside the one silver lining of a deeply traumatic pandemic, the opportunity to ‘build back better’, is being thrown in our face. According to only 2% of the UK’s economic recovery funds have been allocated to climate-related measures, dwarfed by the 30% committed in the EU’s latest package. The Prime Minister should add some substance to his airy words.

Despite this, the new target is, of course, still welcome but it needs to be supported by a comprehensive and joined-up net-zero strategy, and we just have not seen that yet. It is a fact that the Government needs to invest considerably more money in the transition to net-zero. The £4 billion announced two weeks ago [linked to the new 10 point green plan] was immediately undermined by the £30 billion announcements for new roads. This exposes backward thinking at the core of the Government’s strategic policy. Furthermore, the new NDC does not include emissions from aviation and shipping, when clearly the pollution emitted by planes and ships carrying our people and goods is our responsibility. Just like the Government has done with the swift development of the Covid-19 vaccine, getting us to net-zero first will produce a massive economic benefit, but it will require radical action and a large investment up-front. 

Engage with young climate activists

Finally, it would be good for the Prime Minister to engage with young climate activists on this issue. Last week NUS supported 330 students from 140 countries to run our own Mock COP26. We debated and delivered an 18 point declaration which was far more progressive and ambitious than anything we have heard from the Government. Despite several letters to Number 10, the Prime Minister has not replied to our request to meet him. This is truly a missed opportunity. Young people must have a say in the policy that affects our futures.