United Kingdom's Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, addressed the nation in a news conference on Wednesday. He defended the government's shift on climate policy, stating that the UK is adopting a more "pragmatic" approach to achieving its net zero emissions target.
"We are committed to achieving our environmental goals in a way that is sustainable and achievable, without causing unnecessary disruption to our economy or everyday lives," Sunak said.
He emphasized, "Our focus is on creating a balance between our environmental responsibilities and the economic stability of our nation."
The change in policy comes amid criticism from environmentalists and opposition parties, who argue that the government's new approach is a step back from the bold action necessary to tackle climate change. According to them, it jeopardizes the UK's credibility as a leader in climate action, particularly as it prepares to host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow later this year.
However, Sunak rejected these claims, stating:
"Our strategy is not about taking a step back, but about moving forward in a more balanced and sustainable way."
A recent report by the Climate Change Committee (CCC), the UK's independent adviser on climate change, highlighted the need for the government to ramp up its efforts. The report indicated that the UK is currently not on track to meet its fourth and fifth carbon budgets, which set legally binding limits on the amount of greenhouse gases the UK can emit over a 5-year period.
Despite these concerns, Sunak remains confident in the government's approach. "We have some of the most ambitious climate goals in the world and we remain committed to them," he insisted.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the UK has made significant progress in reducing its emissions over the past decade. It has cut emissions by more than any other G7 country since 2000.
In his closing remarks, Sunak emphasised the importance of global cooperation in tackling climate change. He said, "Climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution. We are committed to working with our international partners to drive forward progress on this crucial issue."