Liz Truss’ energy plans show the UK has effectively abandoned net-zero targets just three years after its leading commitment to cutting emissions, the former government’s chief scientific adviser has said.
A major new fossil fuel campaign, including lifting the fracking ban and expanding drilling for oil and gas in the North Sea, has already been announced by the new prime minister’s government.
But pushing for more oil and gas production was “completely at odds” with the UK’s legally binding net-zero target, said Sir David King, head of the Climate Crisis Advisory Group, who served as the government’s chief scientific adviser between 2000 and 2007. . .
In addition, it would bring large amounts of fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases to market immediately before the 2050 deadline for reaching zero, he said. The independent.
He said the plans, announced last week by new Energy Secretary Jacob-Rees Mogg, were “extremely alarming”.
“We are looking at a situation where the crisis is with us today,” he said. “But we don’t realize that when we say ‘let’s go ahead and start new fracking operations in this country’.
“It begs for faith. What it seems to show is that leadership in government does not understand the nature of the climate crisis.”
Mr Rees-Mogg, who previously dismissed climate science as “alarmism”, said in a video on his second day in office that “we are lifting the moratorium on fracking. We will extract every gram of oil and gas from the North Sea.”
During Ms. Truss’ leadership campaign, she mocked the role renewable energy is increasingly playing in the energy system, especially solar, which has become the “cheapest electricity in history” according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
But Sir David, the founder and chairman of the Center for Climate Repair in Cambridge, warned that the government’s revival of fossil fuels could soon backfire.
He said: “I fully agree with what the IEA says, which is ‘not investing in new oil and gas exploration’.
“When we invest in new oil and gas exploration, it takes at least five years to hit the market and more like 10-15 years, which is average.
“In that case, they have nothing to do with the current crisis and they are investing in an operation that is likely to become a stranded asset.
“Frankly, it is a policy that has not been thought through in terms of climate change or in terms of the current climate crisis. It also doesn’t fit [issue].”
His assessment of the government’s stance was shared by leading campaign groups.
Doug Parr, Policy Director of Greenpeace UK, said: The independent: “Sir David King speaks the truth. The most sensible countries realize that the economically rational course is to drive quickly to zero emissions, because it will boost the entire economy and tackle the climate crisis and the cost of living in one fell swoop.
“Truss’ current energy plans will do nothing for the economy in the short term and will in fact carry significant risks of stranded assets.
“Moreover, they accelerate climate degradation, contribute to the deadly heatwaves and floods we see around the world, and do nothing to influence rising energy costs that will leave households and the national overdraft in trouble for years to come. will bring.
“If Truss and Rees-Mogg continue on this course, the question arises: whose interests do they serve?”
Sir David suggests that the country’s leaders used the Russian war in Ukraine as an opportunity to expand fossil fuel use, although it failed to address the climate crisis or the energy crisis.
He said: “The direct consequence of the war between Russia and Ukraine is that energy prices have risen. The response to that [should be] to build more renewable energy – we could use an extension of an already successful operation.
“The opposite is to say ‘let’s use this as an opportunity to develop our oil and gas reserves’ – use the war as an opportunity to do this, knowing it has nothing to do with managing the short-term problems of the war.