UK government’s weakened commitment to climate change must be reversed say leaders

Leading environmentalists and business leaders have called on the UK government to live up to its legacy as a global leader on climate change and clear up confusion over its objectives.

Paris 2015

Leading figures in business and climate change including former US vice president Al Gore have called on the UK government to show the leadership on climate change that it has been known for in the past.

“The United Kingdom’s historic legacy of leadership on the most important moral issues faced by humanity, including the climate crisis, is long and has been recognised with respect by the community of nations,” said Gore. “It is time for the UK government to honour and live up to that legacy, and return to its global leadership position, domestically and abroad, by supporting an ambitious international agreement in Paris that unleashes the power of the private sector to create a global clean energy economy.”

"From the roll-back of renewables to the mixed messages on energy efficiency, these changes send a worrying signal about the UK as a place for low-carbon investment."

John Cridland, Director General, CBI

Gore was speaking at the “Beyond Paris” event in London this week hosted by the charity and think tank Green Alliance with the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). The conference was held ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris on Friday 11th December, where countries are expected to agree a legally binding climate change agreement for the first time in history.

Director General of the CBI, John Cridland called on the government to put the UK in a stronger position to ensure it doesn’t fall behind in a low carbon world.

“Over many years, the UK has built up real credibility on climate leadership and low-carbon investment,” said Cridland pointing to the 2008 Climate Change Act which provided certainty to investors.

“This is hard won, but easily lost. And despite the progress so far, today’s investors are more uncertain about the UK’s low-carbon future. From the roll-back of renewables to the mixed messages on energy efficiency, these changes send a worrying signal about the UK as a place for low-carbon investment,” he said.

Moreover, he said, this “seemingly weakened commitment" risks impacting the UKs standing on the global stage and he called on government to ensure that the Paris delivered three wins for business. He called for a long-term foundation for reducing emissions, with agreement on how to ratchet up ambition on a regular basis. A commitment to driving forward carbon pricing around the world was also a priority.

Matthew Spencer of the Green Alliance will be speaking at the Environmental Industries Commission annual conference on 19 November. For details and to book your ticket visit

“Whilst a truly global carbon market might not be realistic in the short-term, it must remain our long-term ambition. Paris must support this,” he said.

Finally he called for a solution for making finance and innovation more accessible.

“Today, just 10% of climate finance flows from OECD countries to developing countries. We must make sure developing countries can access the financial support they need for low-carbon energy and adaptation measures – especially from the private sector,” he said.

Looking to the future Matthew Spencer, a director at Green Alliance said that a good deal in Paris would create new low carbon markets around the world. “If the UK can  re-stabilise its own energy policy, it stands to gain from the hard work and investment of the past two decades,” he said.

“We’re ahead of the world in bringing down the cost of offshore wind, phasing out the use of coal and, as today’s event shows, we have an enviable level of agreement between business and NGOs about the need to maintain the UK’s low carbon momentum. To build on these advantages, the government needs to clear up the confusion about what it is trying to achieve for the UK energy system, ahead of the Paris conference.”

The Green Building Council (GBC) has for years been urging government to strengthen policy to ensure carbon emissions from buildings are reduced. It welcomed the views from Gore.

“Make no mistake, Al Gore has issued a major challenge on UK climate leadership ahead of the crunch talks in Paris and it is essential that his rallying cry is heard in Treasury,” said John Alker, director of policy and communications at the UK GBC.

"However, the responsibility doesn't rest solely with Government. The voice of progressive business must also be heard, demonstrating why policy certainty is so important and how companies are making strides to drive down carbon in their own investments and operations."


If you would like to contact Bernadette Ballantyne about this, or any other story, please email