The Guardian view on getting to net zero: the crunch is coming | Editorial

Bold climate targets are meaningless without policies to meet them. The PM should grab the chance to make Cop26 a success

Targets are all very well. But not if there is no way of reaching them. In which case, they are a sham. This is the problem now confronting the government. The UK’s stated goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 78% by 2035 compared with 1990 levels is very ambitious. “Remarkable” was the word used last week by Lord Deben (the former Conservative environment secretary John Gummer). He chairs the climate change committee (CCC) that advises the government. Its latest reports make an unflattering contrast between impressive aims and the absence of plans to meet them.

A strategy setting out how the UK intends to meet its net zero pledge is promised before the Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow in November. But there is little sign so far that ministers grasp the scale of the challenge. Not a single government department, the CCC finds, is moving at the necessary pace. Transport, agriculture, buildings, industry: in all the key emissions-producing sectors bar power generation, there has been an alarming lack of progress. Cuts to the aid budget now overseen by the Foreign Office mean that it too is implicated. Support for poor countries as they make the transition away from fossil fuels has long been recognised as a crucial element of the global climate process.

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