No progress evident on path to net zero

March 01 2021

I WAS not overly surprised to read James Heappey’s claim that “the government has the most ambitious plans of any major country for achieving net zero” in last month’s Wells Voice.

He has already demonstrated his complacency over government inaction, when asked to support the private members’ Climate and Ecological Bill, which has the cross-party support of 100 MPs, none of which are Conservatives. I quote from what is a standardised reply from Tory MPs: “while I welcome the increased awareness and debate this Bill brings, I do not believe that it is required as work is already underway”.

On net zero the Climate Coalition, that includes Oxfam, The National Trust, RSPB and over 97 other organisations across the UK, says the government has made “no progress”. There is still no commitment for an overarching net zero test to ensure spending overall is aligned with the Paris Agreement and 1.5C. Yet Mr Heappey claims the focus in government is aligned to the Accord. I find it difficult to square this with the fact that the government has again postponed indefinitely further parliamentary debate on its own Environment Bill, using Covid as their go-to excuse.

But Covid is part and parcel of our disastrous relationship with wildlife. Scientists have believed for 20 years that our destructive relationship with Nature would put us at risk of pandemic diseases and that it’s human impact on the environment that drives emerging diseases. David Attenborough pronounced recently that “if we continue on our current pathway, then what we’ve experienced this year may not be a one-off event”. Am I the only one to see this second postponement as a lack of commitment to solving the biggest problem human beings have ever faced – extinction?

As for having the most ambitious plans, they are of little value, if they are not put into practice. It is easy to promise much, and deliver little. According to Craig Bennet, CEO of The Wildlife Trusts, the UK will have little credibility when it hosts the UN Climate Conference in November if it is still:

• allowing peat burning

• building roads and railways through wildlife sites

• spending £bns propping up fossil fuels

and, I would add, supporting the building of a coal mine in Cumbria and approving the use of a bee-killing pesticide, banned by the EU.

M Sorrell
Haybridge, Wells