Extract New Scientist: Countdown to COP26

I don't share every one of these New Scientist newsletters - but thought I'd share this one. It had the sub-title 'Is the UK net zero plan good enough for COP26?'

Adam Vaughan wrote: In international climate talks, “do as I do” carries a lot more currency than “do as I say”. That’s why the publication of the UK’s net zero strategy this week is so important.

The strategy is a blueprint for how the UK government plans to reach net zero emissions by 2050, covering everything from using more wind and nuclear power to incentives for phasing out petrol and diesel cars. Crucially, it includes interim milestones on the road to the middle of the century.

The document is late and imperfect. But it does mean the UK, as host of the COP26 summit in Glasgow, is ahead of most countries in explaining how it plans to cut carbon emissions.

To date, most countries have been far better at setting targets for cutting emissions by 2030 and 2050 than explaining how they intend to deliver them. Only last month, the UK came in for flak over a lack of policies. The new strategy goes a long way to addressing that. “It shows that the UK is taking a serious approach to making interim plans to reach net zero in 2050,” says Alyssa Gilbert at Imperial College London.

She says while there are rightly concerns about some policies in the plan, and whether they have enough money behind them, the overall picture is good. “The level of planning that’s in this approach will go well beyond what there is in [the plans] many, many of the other countries will be bringing to COP,” she says.

Another thing the strategy brings to COP26 is the “analytical approach”, as Gilbert describes it, that the UK has taken to cutting emissions. That means the structures the UK has, such as the Climate Change Act, the 2008 law that makes domestic carbon targets binding, and the Climate Change Committee, the independent body of experts that advises the UK government on the levels of those targets - and how to meet them.