7 January, 2021
We often start a year thinking it’s going to be very important for climate action. This year, with COP26 looming, it really is.
First, the UK Government recently approved a new target to reduce emissions by 68% by 2030 compared with 1990 levels, an increase from the previous target of a 53% reduction. This came on the recommendation from the Climate Change Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget in December, which mapped out the UK’s path to net zero in the greatest detail yet.
Pursuing a green agenda has been prioritised by the Government recently, perhaps as it seeks to maintain influence post-Brexit, and although there is still a long way to go, this is an area where the UK does relatively well. Last year, a record for coal-free electricity generation was broken with a stretch lasting over two months as the electricity grid continues to decarbonise. Meanwhile, the Covid-19 stimulus package came out as the third most ‘green’ in an analysis by Vivid Economics.
The reduction in travel and energy consumption during the first lockdown saw emissions fall for a period and gave many people an opportunity to take a step back and reconsider emissions-intensive activities. However, the pandemic was not good for tackling climate change on the whole, of course – climate action was delayed across the world as funding and attention was diverted towards Covid-19 relief measures.
Every year, the challenge of overcoming climate change grows as the crisis increases in scale, and winning slowly is – in the end – not much different to losing. However, as we better understand how to tackle it, there are sources of optimism, and COP26 will this year (again) provide a crucial platform for progress in the UK and beyond.
By Patrick Bapty