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Sunak facing criticism for not appointing new leader of climate committee without explanation.
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Sunak facing criticism for not appointing new leader of climate committee without explanation.

The Conservative government has faced strong criticism from UK climate experts due to their failure to appoint a new chair for the independent committee responsible for advising ministers on emissions targets in the last 18 months.

The UK’s top organization focused on studying the economic impacts of climate change expressed strong disapproval in a letter to the prime minister, which was leaked to the Observer. They criticized the prolonged delay in appointing a new chair to replace Lord Deben.

Bob Ward, the leader of policy at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, cautioned Sunak that the postponement is hindering attempts to manage carbon emissions and negatively impacting the UK’s standing as a pioneer in climate change.

“I find it difficult to understand why the announcement for the new chair, which began 18 months ago, has not yet been made,” stated Ward. He also mentioned that the committee’s work is in a crucial stage and having a new chair would be beneficial in completing their tasks.

Lord Stern, the economist who leads the institute, expressed concern that the government’s actions suggest a lack of seriousness towards addressing climate change. This may negatively impact the confidence of other nations and investors in the UK’s dedication to taking action on climate change.

The recent inability to appoint a new committee chair is another instance of Sunak’s inconsistent approach to his party’s environmental promises. This year, he disappointed environmental advocates by proposing legislation for yearly oil and gas licensing in the North Sea, while also backtracking on previous actions such as postponing a ban on the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars.

The Climate Change Committee was established by the 2008 Climate Change Act to advise on national strategies for reducing emissions and preparing for the effects of global warming. It has previously voiced concerns about the UK’s inadequate efforts in areas such as flood protection and household energy efficiency.

In July of 2022, it was declared that Lord Deben, who was expected to leave his position, would remain in the role for an additional nine months until a new chairperson was found. A year and a half has passed since then, but the position is still unfilled, with Prof Piers Forster serving as the temporary leader.

Shadow secretary of state for climate change, Ed Miliband, emphasized the importance of the UK becoming a leader in clean energy to reduce power costs for families and achieve energy independence.

Miliband stated that this is another indication of the Conservatives’ lack of effort in advocating for lower bills, energy self-sufficiency, and leading on climate issues. He urged Rishi Sunak to stop prolonging the process and promptly make this appointment.

The committee’s main responsibility is to determine the projected levels of greenhouse gas emissions for the UK. The upcoming carbon budget, which will be the seventh for the UK, will specify the allowable amount of emissions for the time frame of 2038 to 2042.

“The budget must be agreed by the first half of 2025 and be built on robust analysis and rigorous involvement by the committee,” added Ward. “The fact it will still not have a chairman in place by 2024 to direct this work is deeply concerning.”

Lord Deben concurred that expediency called for a replacement to be selected promptly. “It is imperative that we appoint a successor in a timely manner, as they will need time to begin work on the seventh carbon budget, which typically takes a couple of years.”

According to government officials, the newly appointed chair must receive approval from London ministers, as well as from the Scottish and Welsh parliaments, and the devolved government in Northern Ireland. However, this process is not yet finished.

David Willetts, a former Tory minister and current president of the Resolution Foundation think tank, is considered a top contender for the position.

A representative from the government stated that they are still dedicated to their current climate change goals and are making progress towards achieving net zero by 2050. They also mentioned that they will select a permanent chairperson at a later time.

Source: theguardian.com