Environment ministry has no plans to meet lower emissions targets, leaked memo reveals

The sector currently accounts for around a tenth of the UK’s total emissions.

A leaked internal memo has revealed the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is yet to agree on policies for delivering its carbon emissions targets.

In spite of ministers being told to develop workable strategies for cutting their emissions, a leaked memo reportedly seen by The Times reveals Defra officials are concerned about their department’s lack of deliverable plans on cutting emissions.

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“Defra is currently not on track to deliver against its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for CB [carbon budget] 4, 5, 6 and does not have an agreed policy pipeline that allows us to meet them,” it states.

Environment George Eustice is now facing pressure from Downing Street and environmental groups.

It adds that this “poses significant reputational risks” to Defra, and says that a “tiger team” of officials must bring the strategy back on track.

All ministers have been asked to develop workable strategies for cutting emissions as part of the UK’s roadmap to net zero emissions by 2050. Currently, Defra produces around a tenth of the UK’s total emissions.

The leaked internal memo, however, has revealed a lack of strategy in place for the environment ministry to reduce these emissions in line with targets.

Environment George Eustice is now facing pressure both from Downing Street and environmental groups as a result of the leak.

Eustice has already faced accusations from environmental groups that he is watering down commitments made by former environment secretary Michael Gove to reform farming post-Brexit to be more climate-friendly.

Some have criticised the minister for being too close to the farming lobby, saying he hasn’t done enough to capitalise on new freedoms to shake up farming post-Brexit.

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His stance on peat burning has also come under fire in recent months, with environmentalists accusing the minister of failing to bring tough actions against the activity.

Matt Williams, of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit told The Times:

“Defra has a critical role in helping the government achieve its net-zero target.

“The problem is that at the moment progress is flatlining while other sectors are doing much more.”

Defra said it would not comment on leaked documents but told the paper:

“As a government we are committed to the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth”.