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UK missing key Net Zero Targets, CCC warns

As the UK heads into another sweltering summer, the country is feeling the need to accelerate its green transition. 

As temperatures reached 30 degrees in June of this year, demand for air-conditioning has surged. Historically air-conditioning use has been low, but with temperatures reaching 40 degrees last summer, many businesses and residential buildings have switched to the more intensive cooling technology. The demand from AC units meant that National Grid had to resort to burning coal to generate electricity, ending forty-seven days without using coal to fuel the grid. 

The International Energy Agency reports that air conditioning accounts for one-fifth of electricity consumption in buildings. As climate change causes more frequent heatwaves, which in turn creates more fuel consumption for AC, there is the potential for the UK to fall into a dangerous cycle, and feel increasing pressure on the grid. 

The lack of infrastructure for renewable energy has contributed to increased reliance on coal, oil and gas in the UK. In June, the think tank Carbon Tracker reported that Britain wasted enough wind power to fuel one million homes last year. Lack of investment and planning has led to congestion on the grid which means wind power does not reach homes or storage facilities and is wasted. Wind farms in the North Sea, rural areas, and the northern part of the country are struggling to reach the demand of urban areas in the south. Lorenzo Sani, author of the report states that: 

‘The electricity grid is not fit for purpose because investments are not increasing in step with the rapid growth of wind power.’ 

These challenges and infrastructure problems are occurring to an increasingly fractured government response. The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has warned that the UK has ‘lost the leadership’ on climate targets. While the growing sale of electric cars is praised, the report is condemning. Lord Deben, outgoing chair, describes the permits for new oil and gas fields in the North Sea as ‘utterly unacceptable’. Climate activist group Just Stop Oil are demanding the same targets as the CCC, and have been disrupting the UK’s international sporting events throughout June. 

Lord Deben told reporters of a ‘worrying hesitancy’ from ministers to pursue climate goals. On the 30th of June, minister Zac Goldsmith resigned from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government, describing Sunak’s ‘apathy’ towards the environment. 

June has been a challenging month for the UK’s position as a climate leader on the world stage. Strong investment in renewable energy is necessary ensure the UK remains within reach of achieving its Net Zero goals.