Saving the planet

Governments should be doing more to save our planet

Most think governments are not doing enough

Given the UK is hosting and will play a crucial role in the Cop26 climate talks in November, the absence of specific green measures in Rishi Sunak’s Budget last month prompted disappointment and criticism.

But the under-fire Chancellor was not the only government member accused of failing to put into policy its pro-green rhetoric. The parliamentary public accounts committee says in a new report that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not set out a plan to meet the UK’s commitment to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

And amongst further shortcomings the committee also found that ministers are failing to instruct their departments to take the net zero target into account when setting policy.

Committee chair Meg Hillier said the Government gave itself a huge test in committing the UK to a net zero economy, but almost two years after putting the pledge into law, “it still has no plan.”

The Government denies this, with a spokesperson saying that the Budget was building on the Prime Minister’s ten point plan launched last year for a green industrial revolution, by “encouraging private investment in green growth.”

Plans being brought forward include “bold proposals” to cut emissions and create jobs and industries. Critics claim these “plans” lack detail and have not yet led to policy changes. The UK was one of the first nations to set the net zero emissions goal. It was made law in June 2019, one of Theresa May’s last acts as prime minister, and since then dozens of other countries and blocs have followed suit including the EU, China and Japan.

At the Cop26 summit in Glasgow in November, the Government’s task will be to bring countries together to fulfil the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015, when a global warming target goal of below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably 1.5C, was set.

Few nations are anywhere near achieving that target, with major emitters including the United States, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia, on course for 4C. At that rate, the polar ice caps will melt causing massive sea level rises and worldwide devastation. Activists say only drastic action will force countries to drastic change.

Many are pushing for the criminal offence of ecocide, human activity causing mass damage and destruction of ecosystems, to be adopted worldwide and accepted as an internationally punishable crime by the United Nations.

What our surveys show

The world’s governments definitely need to be doing more to protect the environment and the planet – that is the overwhelming majority opinion of the public, with a huge 91% majority “strongly agreeing” or “agreeing” when we posed the question. A minuscule 1% disagreed and 8% said they neither agreed nor disagreed, or were undecided on the issue. We changed the format for the second two questions, firstly asking which were the key environmental issues needing to be addressed.

Four responses stood out. “Protecting wildlife and marine life” led the way, being mentioned by 87% of those surveyed, followed closely by “protecting forests and plant life” included by 84%. “Reducing carbon emissions” got 71% of responses and “developing renewable energy sources” was nominated by 69%. For our final question we asked what changes needed to be made to protect the environment, and a huge 91% answered with “Develop renewable energy sources”. “Recycle more and minimise waste” was mentioned by 86% of respondents, while 78% said “reduce our energy requirements” and 64% said we should “look to find technical solutions to environmental problems” as was highlighted recently by Bill Gates.

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