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Climate change - amber

The UK has won praise for environmental initiatives. Reports show emissions are reducing. The lack of a strategy for implementing the Paris Agreement has led to criticism.

This scorecard assesses the UK's performance on key areas using impartial sources. Applying our methodology, we scored the UK amber as its actions are ambiguous.

Our rationale

Erik Solheim, the Executive Director of UN Environment, praised Britain for its work to combat plastics pollution, commenting: “this support from the UK government...is such an inspiring step in the right direction.” However, in June 2018 the chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee criticised the UK for failing “to spell out its plans for the 4th and 5th Carbon Budgets”, and questions remain about the 2016 decision to abolish the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

Our analysis

By introducing the 2008 Climate Change Act, Britain became a global pioneer as the first country to adopt a legally-binding framework with long-term emissions targets and carbon budgets. More recently the UK has shown leadership in its commitment to phase out coal power stations by 2025 and its effort to secure the Paris Climate Agreement.

However, there are growing concerns that the UK has de-prioritised climate action. The Climate Change Committee warned last year that the UK lacks the policies to meet its carbon reduction targets.

The decision to close the Department for Energy and Climate Change and have those portfolios subsumed into what is now called the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Department are also perceived to have reduced the emphasis on climate change at cabinet-level - a move interpreted by many as a sign of fading political appetite for this issue.

The Select Committee on Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has raised concerns about a lack of focus on climate change policy, pointing to unnecessary delays, including the publication of the Clean Growth Plan, and adding to concerns over the UK’s ability to meet its commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement.

The UK has also come under criticism for not doing enough to engage the US on its decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. An opportunity for European powers to speak as one on this issue was lost when the UK refused to join a European statement condemning the move.

Read UNA-UK’s publication on climate

Photo: UN Photo/Martine Perret/Effects of water scarcity near Manatuto,Timor-Leste.