Boris Johnson’s delaying of publishing his net zero emissions strategy has opened the door for climate change sceptics to “complain, attack and undermine” environmental policies, the government’s independent climate adviser has said.
Lord Deben, a Tory peer and chair of the climate change committee, said critics of the net zero policy had been increasingly vocal because the debate “hasn’t been put into context by the government”.
Johnson has stuck to Theresa May’s plan to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 – but he is yet to publish a roadmap of policies, a Treasury review of costs or any sort of sector-by-sector strategy.
More detail is anticipated in September, just two months before Cop26 in Glasgow, amid rows with the Treasury about how to spread the cost of adjusting the economy.
Speaking to the Guardian, Lord Deben warned the lack of detail had “given an open opportunity for people to make all sorts of statements without any response from the government”.
Foreign aid cuts
Despite praising the government’s preparations for Cop26 under climate envoy Alok Sharma, he added that there had been a “fundamental problem” with persuading developing countries to sign up to steep emissions cuts when the UK had slashed its foreign aid budget.
“It was a very serious mistake to cut back on overseas aid,” he said, adding that it had made it “very much more difficult” for Sharma in his negotiations.
Lord Deben added: “Other countries would be much more willing to recognise that this is proper leadership if they see a programme in detail, but we haven’t committed ourselves to that.”
Suggesting it was right for Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, to ensure the cost of decarbonisation is “fairly and reasonably spread across society”, the Conservative peer chastised the prime minister for not publishing his plan sooner.
“The problem is that because that is very late, because it was supposed to be done very much earlier, of course it’s given every opportunity for everybody who wants to complain, to attack, to undermine what has to be done and to make a great fuss about the various costs.”
He added: “Boris Johnson has done some remarkable things in the sense that he has clearly signed up to the toughest targets of any country in the world. But the problem for this government is that having done that, we still haven’t seen the delivery programme.”