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The poorest are being failed by climate policy, government warned

The government hasn't shown how it will achieve net zero without disadvantaging the poorest, the climate change committee has warned.

An electric car charging

Currently, electric cars are too expensive for many people. (Image: Pixabay)

The government is failing to say how it will spread the cost of climate change policies fairly or protect the poorest from the impacts of global heating, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has warned.

The CCC, who advise the government on climate change, also said in their latest report that the government is failing to act on its climate pledges, and risks falling short of the UK’s net zero target as a result. 

Ami McCarthy, campaigner at Greenpeace, said the report showed “time is running out” to act, and called on the government to “roll up its sleeves and deliver the benefits of a climate friendly economy for all”.

The study comes a year after the CCC’s 2021 progress report, which similarly warned action on climate change was failing to match ambitious promises made by the government.

This year’s, however, comes as a cost of living crisis continues to squeeze household finances across the country.

The CCC has said in its latest report that many measures to tackle the cost of living crisis, including insulating homes, will also help the government in its efforts to tackle climate change. 

Yet it also noted that current policies are failing to address the risk that poorer people will be unfairly disadvantaged as the UK moves towards a greener economy. 

On electric vehicles, for instance, the committee noted that electric cars are more expensive than ordinary cars upfront, with a lack of a second-hand market meaning lower income households can’t afford them. 

It’s also more expensive for those without a driveway to charge electric cars, meaning higher-income households are currently benefiting more from the switch to greener vehicles.

While the CCC said the government has made some progress on targeting vulnerable households in its net zero strategy, it noted that gaps remain.

A continued failure to properly insulate the UK’s housing stock, for instance, has left millions footing high energy bills. 

“Beyond support with energy bills in the short-term, there is a need to set out policies for energy efficiency measures that will both reduce costs for households and support the transition away from fossil fuel consumption in the longer term,” the report said. 

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The report also warned the government has failed to outline how the transition to net zero will be paid for fairly, without higher costs falling on the shoulders of those on the lowest incomes. 

“The Net Zero Review failed to present the impacts of net zero on the distribution of costs and benefits across society.

“Without this, it is unclear how it can be ensured that the funding of net zero is fair and that it is perceived as such,” the report reads.

Lord Deben said of the CCC’s latest report: “The UK is a champion in setting new climate goals, now we must be world-beaters in delivering them. In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, the country is crying out to end its dependence on expensive fossil fuels.

“I welcome the government’s restated commitment to net zero, but holes must be plugged in its strategy urgently. The window to deliver real progress is short. We are eagle-eyed for the promised action.”

Greenpeace UK’s political campaigner, Ami McCarthy, said: “It’s kind of ironic that the CCC has named this a progress report when the government’s progress on climate policy is grinding to a standstill.

“The cost of living crisis should be adding impetus to the kind of action we need to see to stop the climate-wrecking energy waste from our homes, since the solution to both problems – an urgently implemented nationwide insulation programme – is the same. 

“The longer this government drags its feet on greening our homes, delivering renewables and moving our food production system away from meat, the sharper and more costly the shift will be further down the line. Time is running out. The government must roll up its sleeves and deliver the benefits of a climate friendly economy for all.”

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