The government has a “ramshackle, Dad’s Army” approach to coping with the impact of rising temperatures, its own climate advisers have warned.
The committee on climate change (CCC) said the UK is not prepared for a 2C (35.6F) temperature rise – the level which countries have pledged to curb warming at – and is even less prepared for a potential 4C (39.2F) rise.
It warned the government does not have a comprehensive plan to tackle the crisis, and said ambitious targets will not be met unless radical new policies are drawn up in the next 12 to 18 months.
CCC chairman Lord Deben says it will be a major “embarrassment both to the government and to the country” if the goal of cutting carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 is missed.
He added: “The whole thing is really run by the government like a Dad’s Army. We can’t go on with this ramshackle system.”
The annual report reflects on how the government is performing in relation to its climate change targets – and comes just a month after Theresa May announced the UK would be the first G7 nation to legally bind itself to a net zero target.
Despite her announcement, there is a substantial gap between ambition and the action needed to achieve it, the report claims.
Last year, the committee made 25 headline policy recommendations to get emissions back on track.
Of these, only one has been enacted, and that was a policy ensuring the UK can still partake in the carbon trading and offsetting market after Brexit.
Some 10 of the policy recommendations haven’t even seen partial progress.
Chris Stark, chief executive of the CCC, said: “In a host of areas, the government hasn’t even made a plan to meet the risks laid out in its own risk assessment.
“We’ve helpfully set a target. That’s great, but it’s not a magic fix; you need to have a set of deep policies in each sector that engage real people and we don’t have that yet.”
There was some good news. Overall emissions have fallen in the last year – with the UK moving away from coal and embracing a boom in offshore wind.
But these reductions were not echoed across the economy as a whole and go nowhere near far enough – while emissions from buildings have flatlined, aviation and transport have seen increases.
The report calls for ambitious, faster action in a range of areas. It says petrol and diesel vehicles will need to be phased out, ideally by 2030, carbon capture technology will need to be embraced as soon as possible, and gas boilers will need to become a thing of the past.
A government spokesperson said: “As the CCC recognises, we are the first major economy to legislate for net zero emissions, have cleaned up our power sector, cut emissions faster than any G7 country while growing the economy, championed adaptation and set a strong example for other countries to follow.”
However, they admitted there was “more to do” – adding that plans will be set out in the coming months.