The "Net Zero 2050" UK Government deceits

Summary

Boris Johnson and the UK govenment are promoting their "Net Zero Carbon 2050" strategy as the solution to the climate emergency, as if action can be delayed for years or decades - but the strategy is riddled with deceits.

The truth is that the UK needs to halve CO2 emissions by 2025, and this means urgent, radical action now.

The deceits should be called out at every opportunity.


Background

The global temperature rise due to climate change is fast approaching 1.5°, and climate change has gone from a crisis to an emergency as successive governments have failed to take the necessary and obvious actions [1]. The UK Government is promoting "Net Zero 2050" [2] as a solution, but there are many problems with it including deliberate deceits.

The "zero-carbon imports" deceit

The UK Government treats imports as zero-carbon - i.e. the CO2 emissions generated in the manufacture of an item are not included in the Government's UK total [2]. This has resulted in a large reduction in the UK total that they quote because so much of UK manufacturing has been outsourced overseas. Outsourcing of manufacturing to other countries is clearly not a solution to the climate emergency.

Omission of aviation and shipping

Aviation and shipping CO2 emissions are excluded from the UK Government's quoted total [2] even though they account for over 10% of the real total, and have increased in recent years.

The "world-beating emission reduction" deceit

Boris Johnson persists in claiming a large reduction in emissions, e.g. "42% since 1990" [3]. This figure is obtained by counting only part of the total - by omitting imports, aviation and shipping, as above. When imports are counted, the reduction is only 15% [4], and including aviation, it is only 11% read more.

The "zero-carbon electric vehicle" deceit

Electric vehicles are treated by the UK Government as zero carbon, but this is deceitful. If a vehicle powered by a perol or diesel engine is scrapped and replaced by a new electric one powered from the grid, the additional electricity that is needed will be generated by a power station using either gas or coal - and the CO2 emissions will be similar to the those from the petrol or diesel used previously.

What should be happening

At this time of crisis in our civilisation, the UK needs an honest, conscientious government that operates according to the democratic principles of honesty, transparency, decision-making on best evidence, and accountability - as set out by the Committee on Standards in Public Life read more.

Who's speaking up

  • The deceits are understood by Greta Thunberg and the #FridaysForFuture youth strikers. They have been referred to repeatedly in their speeches and open letters [5].
  • Extinction Rebellion protesters have three demands, the first of which is that the UK Government stops the deceits and tells the truth.

The UK Government's response to criticisms

The UK Government has ignored the criticisms, and yet they form the basis of the school strikes and Extinction Rebellion's disruptive and costly protests.
If the criticisms are unfounded, why is the Government keeping quiet rather than engaging?
If it is all a misunderstanding by the protesters, why not put them straight and defuse the protests?
The absence of engagement is a strong indication that the Government is guilty of deliberate deceit.
Instead of honesty, engagement and consensus, the Government is now trying to silence dissent by new restrictions on protests.

Conclusion

The UK Government's climate strategy is riddled with deceits which appear designed to put off taking any real action on climate change.
Its persistence despite repeated criticisms and protests is a strong indication that the deceits are deliberate rather than inadvertent.
At a time when children, future generations and people around the world need urgent, radical action, it is despicable that the Government is being so dishonest.
Prosecutions for Misconduct in Public Office seem to be justified.

Action needed

Decent people should call out the deceits and consider supporting the protests to highlight the dishonesty.
There should be zero tolerance of those in public office who are promoting the deceits or keeping quiet about them. Silence is complicity.

Notes and references

[1]https://www.carbonindependent.org/49.html
[2]Climate Change Committee (2020) The sixth carbon budget https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/The-Sixth-Carbon-Budget-The-UKs-path-to-Net-Zero.pdf
[3]Boris Johnson's speech in Greenwich (Feb 2020) https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-speech-in-greenwich-3-february-2020
[4]https://www.wwf.org.uk/sites/default/files/2020-04/FINAL-WWF-UK_Carbon_Footprint_Analysis_Report_March_2020%20%28003%29.pdf (Mar 2020)
[5]For example in the Face the Climate Emergency open letter from Greta Thunberg and #FridaysForFuture members (Jul 2020) (https://climateemergencyeu.org). They stress including total emissions in all figures and targets, including international aviation and shipping, basing budgets on the IPCC's figure for a 66% chance of limiting temperature rise to 1.5°, global equity, and not depending on possible future negative emission technology.


First published: 18 Mar 2021
Last updated: 16 Apr 2021