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Government needs to show a more 'joined-up' approach to climate crisis, says leading scientist

PUBLISHED: 11:28 13 July 2019 | UPDATED: 11:53 13 July 2019

Dr Phil Williamson believes the Government should encourage more onshore wind projects,  Picture: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

Dr Phil Williamson believes the Government should encourage more onshore wind projects, Picture: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

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Fracking, a third runway at Heathrow and road building programme contradict emissions-cutting pledge, say climate scientist and environmentalist from the region.

Dr Phil Williamson, climate scientist at the University of East AngliaDr Phil Williamson, climate scientist at the University of East Anglia

The Government needs to show a more "joined up" approach if it is to enable the country to reduce carbon emissions and limit the impact of the climate crisis, a leading climate expert from the region has said.

Dr Phil Williamson, a climate scientist at the University of East Anglia in Norwich points to the decision to allow fracking in parts of England and the current consultation on plans to build a controversial third runway at Heathrow as factors that contradict the Government's pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

"Allowing fracking and a new runway at Heathrow isn't joined-up Government on the climate front," he said.

"From now on any government department should be looking at the environmental impact of any policy and whether it is sustainable or not."

READ MORE: East Anglia on the 'front line' of managing the impact of climate change, says Environment Agency director

Plans for a third runway at Heathrow are currently subject to consultation PIC: Steve Parsons/PA WirePlans for a third runway at Heathrow are currently subject to consultation PIC: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Progress

Dr Williamson's comments come in the wake of a report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), published this week, which assessed the Government's progress on cutting emissions and its work in preparing for the impacts of climate change.

The committee's annual report to Parliament found that UK action to slash the greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change is lagging far behind what is needed, even before the Government set a tougher new target to cut pollution to zero overall by 2050. And it warned that action to prepare homes, businesses and the countryside in England for a hotter world is "less ambitious" than it was a decade ago.

The committee assessed 33 areas where the risks of climate change needed to be addressed, from flood resilience of properties to impacts on farmland and supply chains, and found there was no good progress in any of them.

Committee chairman Lord Deben, a former MP for Suffolk Coastal, said: "The whole thing is really run by the Government like a Dad's Army.

Cllr Robert LindsayCllr Robert Lindsay

"We can't go on with this ramshackle system, which puts huge pressure on individuals, who are reacting well but the system is not fit for purpose, and doesn't begin to face the issues."

Complacent

Dr Williamson said the Government had become "complacent" because the roll-out of renewable energy had "gone well" but said there were a number of things it could be doing to cut emissions further. These include ensuring overseas aid money for energy development goes only to projects involving renewable energy and encouraging more onshore wind projects and tree planting.

He also criticised decisions to relax building standards.

"All new buildings have to be super-efficient with good insulation and solar panels - I don't think that would cost any more," added Dr Williamson, who also called for road taxes to subsidise the cost of electric cars, and for incentives for home-owners to buy solar panels to be reinstated.

Suufolk County Council has announced cuts to bus route subsidies Picture: PAUL GEATERSuufolk County Council has announced cuts to bus route subsidies Picture: PAUL GEATER

READ MORE: Suffolk county councillors vote to declare a 'climate emergency'

Frustrated

Down in Suffolk, Green Party county councillor Robert Lindsay, said there is also a lack of join-up thinking on a local level.

He said he was "frustrated" by recent decisions to axe subsidies for bus services in the county and to launch a consultation into a multi-million pound northern bypass road scheme around Ipswich, which he said would increase traffic and therefore emissions.

Both decisions have come after county councillors voted overwhelming to declare a climate emergency earlier this year.

Mr Lindsay said: "Having declared a climate emergency, the ground breaker criteria on any project sponsored by Suffolk County Council should be 'will it add to or reduce greenhouse gases'. If the project adds to climate emissions then it should not be promoted."

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