The government has been accused of failing to reduce the demand for flights and eating meat as part of its plans to curb climate change.
The advisory body of the Committee on Climate Change says that even ministers have not shown how to achieve their ambition of reducing the demand for road travel.
He warns that a “technocentric” approach to cutting emissions adopted by the prime minister has a high risk of failure.
But a committee report praised the government’s Net Zero Strategy.
A government spokesperson welcomed the CCC’s generally positive response to the Net Zero Strategy and said it would achieve all of its climate change goals.
Boris Johnson has regularly promised that climate change can be tackled without what he calls “shirts”.
Many experts agree on the need for technology, but say behavior must change too.
They believe that the demand for high-carbon activities must be reduced for the UK to reach its climate targets in the 1930s.
The report by the CCC – an independent body that advises the UK and delegated governments on emissions targets – precedes the COP26 climate summit to be held in Glasgow on Sunday.
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It says: “There is less emphasis on reducing the demand for high-carbon assets than in the CCC scenarios.
“The government does not include an explicit ambition on changing diet or reducing aviation growth, and travel demand management policies have not been developed to match the funding that has been committed.”
The committee added: “These remain valuable options with important co-benefits and can help manage delivery risks around a technocentric approach. They need to be explored further for timely action.”
Nick Eyre, a professor of energy and climate policy at the University of Oxford, went even further.
Referring to the prime minister’s mockery, he told a COP26 media briefing: “The prime minister’s headline about not changing the way we use energy is not only useful, but unrealistic.
“We will not achieve the climate goals unless there is a combination of technology and behavior change.”
The government’s global Net Zero climate plans, unveiled last week, showed how nearly all sectors of the economy should virtually eliminate global warming carbon emissions by 2050.
But on the eve of the budget, the commission warns that the Treasury still lacks policies for cutting emissions.
He did not explain, for example, how funds can be raised for a massive investment in clean electricity, or how a major home insulation program will be suggested and supported.
The committee said: “Vague plans currently need to be swiftly defined to improve home energy efficiency for 60% of UK households who are landlord occupants but not in energy poverty.”
More policies are also needed to reduce emissions from land use and agriculture, he says.
The criticisms are tempered by praise for the overwhelming nature of the government’s Net Zero Strategy, which is thought to be the first in the world to demonstrate how emissions can be cut across the board.
The report says the strategy is feasible and cost-effective and will create many jobs.
CCC Chairman Lord Deben said: “This is a real step forward. The UK was the first major industrialized nation to enact Net Zero – we now have political plans to get us there.
“Ministers made the big decisions: decarbonise the energy sector by 2035, phase out petrol and diesel vehicles, support heat pumps for homes.
“They have proposed policies to do this. I applaud their ambition, but now they have to achieve these goals and fill the remaining gaps in funding and implementation. “
This may prove easier said than done, because there is currently a gap between the government’s climate promises and its results.
The CCC recently judged that ministers had achieved only about a fifth of the carbon cuts needed to meet previous climate targets.
The COP26 world climate summit in Glasgow in November is considered crucial if climate change is to be kept under control. Nearly 200 countries are being asked for their plans to reduce emissions and this could lead to major changes in our daily lives.
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A government spokesperson said: “We welcome expert advice from the Climate Change Committee as we work to implement our comprehensive plan to complete the job and eradicate the UK’s contribution to climate change by 2050.
“As the committee rightly points out, our world-leading Net Zero strategy builds on the UK’s proven track record of decarbonising faster than any other G7 country in recent decades.”
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