The UK is failing on almost every part of its climate plan. What can we do about it?
A protestor with a sign saying 'Change the politics, no the climate'

The UK is failing on almost every part of its climate plan. What can we do about it?

By: Izzie McIntosh
Date: 29 June 2023
Campaigns: Climate

On Wednesday, the UK Climate Change Committee released its 15th annual report on the UK governments’ progress in reducing emissions. It’s no surprise that they found the UK is making a worrying lack of progress towards its targets.

In the face of a deepening climate emergency, this is alarming. But with communities around the world mobilising to fight back against the rampant greed and inaction that is driving climate change, there is cause for hope. So, what does the committee see as the main issues, and how can we force our MPs to act for our futures?

What is the Climate Change Committee?

The UK Climate Change Committee is an independent body that was set up by law in 2008. It advises governments across the UK on how to reach their emissions targets, and reports to parliament about the progress of the UK’s reduction of greenhouse gases every year.

What are the most important findings?

  1. The committee found ‘worrying’ levels of hesitancy and inaction on climate in the UK government

The UK committed to reach ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050 in 2019, but four years later the climate change committee still says there is a lack of urgency over delivery. Promised commitments are still just that, commitments.

The UK government has a history of failing to live up to its climate promises, and over the decades, we’ve seen many instances of government greenwashing and inaction. They have been repeatedly criticised, for example, for failing to provide promised international climate funds, which could help countries in the global south fight climate chaos. Many have argued that the UK has a particular responsibility here: countries experiencing the worst impacts of climate chaos are the same ones whose economies the UK profited from destabilising through colonialism.

  1. The UK needs to engage with countries in the global south to further climate progress

The committee wants to hear the UK’s stance on specific climate finance measures that have been proposed by leaders in the global south already being impacted by climate change. It also expressed the need for the government to engage more with debt support measures for countries in the global south.

Many countries in the global south facing the worst impacts of climate chaos have to spend vast amounts of their GDP on paying back colonial era debts to creditors in the global north. The UK must cancel debt, support much more disaster funding being transferred to the global south, and finance loss and damage through a tax on polluters like Shell and BP.

  1. “Expansion of fossil fuel production is not in line with net zero”

The UK needs to more than double its emissions reduction to hit its 2030 targets. And the committee said what we were all thinking: you can’t say you’re pursuing net zero if you’re opening new coal mines and approving new oil and gas production (looking at you, Rishi Sunak) or refusing to commit to closing down said oilfields if they’re approved before you’re potentially elected (Keir Starmer).

Reliance on oil and gas is causing chaos around the world. In the UK, people are struggling to pay their bills, whilst grappling with the possibility of increased extreme heat, which we are completely unprepared for. In the global south, extreme weather events – such as last year’s floods which submerged one third of Pakistan in water, displacing 8 million people – are often traced back to climate change. But it doesn’t have to be like this. The global movement against fossil fuels is powerful and ever-growing. And we can all take action to persuade our MPs to join it.

How can you take action?

Sign the petition to make polluters pay!

We’re demanding that this government contributes to a fund for countries in the global south already facing climate chaos. But taxpayers must not foot the bill whilst big oil companies – whose activities have caused this crisis – are sitting on billions in profits.

Our research shows that British companies Shell and BP could owe over $3 trillion in climate reparations to the global south. Tell Rishi Sunak to make polluters pay today.

Tell the government to stop expanding fossil fuels

Decisions on the Rosebank oil field in the North Sea and the Cumbria coal mine are due soon. Tell Rishi Sunak’s government to stop heading in the wrong direction.

Join Global Justice Now

Global Justice Now works in solidarity with people in the global south to fight the climate emergency. You can join a local network, or sign up for our emails to hear more about how we’re making polluters pay and fighting oil and gas production, and how you can help.


The committee also said the UK must leave the climate-wrecking energy charter treaty – read more about our campaign to make this happen.

Photo: Diana Vucane/Shutterstock