When will the UK Government take the climate emergency seriously?

Comment by Josiah Lockhart, Chief Executive of Changeworks

How warm is too warm? How far is too far? What needs to happen next to enable meaningful, urgent action to fight the climate emergency?

Last week, the EU’s climate service announced that, for the first time, global warming exceeded the crucial threshold of 1.5C across an entire year (February 2023 to January 2024). Whilst this doesn’t breach the 2015 Paris agreement – to limit long-term temperature rises to 1.5C – it brings the world dangerously close.

Speaking to the BBC, Professor Sir Bob Watson, a former chair of the UN’s climate body, said: “This far exceeds anything that is acceptable.”

We have reached boiling point. The devastating effects of global warming and climate change can be seen everywhere. It’s not just wildfires, droughts and flooding overseas; closer to home we can see it firsthand too.

Headshot of Changeworks Chief Executive Josiah Lockhart

Josiah Lockhart, Chief Executive of Changeworks


2022 was the UK’s warmest year on record and saw 40C recorded for the first time.

Yet, despite all the evidence to the contrary, the UK Government continues to dismiss the climate emergency that is staring us squarely in the face.

The UK Government’s recent watering down of climate policy, and ongoing reliance on fossil fuel heating, will continue to have a devastating impact on those already struggling with high energy bills, condemning even more people to fuel poverty.

Beyond government policy, the situation is equally disappointing.

Last week, on the same day the EU announced global warming had exceeded 1.5C, the UK Labour Party announced it would U-turn on its policy to spend £28bn a year on its green investment plan.

So, while an incumbent government and a party seeking power play election politics with our futures, we must ask the question: When will they take the climate emergency seriously?

Climate change is the most significant threat to the environment and our way of life, and the Scottish public know this. A recent survey* by Changeworks showed that 79% of respondents think climate change is a major problem that needs to be addressed.

In Scotland, we have a further crisis in the form of fuel poverty. Scottish homes are some of the least energy efficient in Europe. Around 35% of Scottish households are in fuel poverty, and over 50% of homes have an Energy Performance rating of D or below.

This is where the link between the climate crisis and fuel poverty crisis becomes obvious. Relying on oil and gas for home heating leads to higher, unaffordable energy bills. It also produces almost 13% of Scotland’s carbon emissions.

Changeworks has over 35 years’ experience in home decarbonisation, and continues to invest in services that will enable householders to reduce both their energy bills and their carbon footprint.

Improving the energy efficiency of Scotland’s homes is key to alleviating fuel poverty, lowering carbon emissions and meeting our net zero targets.

The UK Government needs to step up now and show a firm commitment to the climate emergency. Our future depends on it.

*Changeworks commissioned a nationally representative survey of adults in Scotland in November ’23 managed by 56 Degree Insight. 

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