Sunak and Cameron have publicly clashed over big issues
Sunak is now under scrutiny for what appears to be a lack of urgency in addressing this crucial appointment. AFP News

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is facing criticism for what environmental advocates are calling an "inexplicable" delay in appointing a new chief for the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

The watchdog, responsible for advising the UK government on climate policy, has been without a leader for 18 months since the departure of former chief Lord Deben.

The CCC plays a pivotal role in guiding the government's response to the climate crisis, making the absence of a leader even more concerning amid the global push for more ambitious climate action.

Sunak, who has been a key figure in shaping the country's economic policies, is now under scrutiny for what appears to be a lack of urgency in addressing this crucial appointment.

Environmental campaigners argue that the delay sends the wrong message at a time when the world is grappling with the severe consequences of climate change.

Bob Ward, Head of Policy at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, has cautioned Prime Minister Sunak about the detrimental effects of the delay, emphasising that it is undermining initiatives aimed at curbing carbon emissions and tarnishing the UK's standing as a leader in the fight against climate change.

"Given that the recruitment of the new chair began 18 months ago it is inexplicable that the appointment has still not been announced," wrote Ward.

The work of the committee is at a "critical stage", he added. "It is not helpful that it does not yet have a new chair as it carries out this work."

Economist Lord Stern added: "It seems to be yet another signal that the government does not take climate change policy seriously enough. All this is damaging the confidence of other countries and of investors in the UK's commitment to climate action."

The recent failure to appoint a new chair for the committee is just the latest instance of inconsistency on the part of Sunak regarding his party's green commitments.

Earlier last year, environmentalists were disheartened when he announced legislation for an annual system of oil and gas licensing in the North Sea, following a series of other measures being scaled back, including delays to the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars.

Established under the 2008 Climate Change Act, the Climate Change Committee consists of experts tasked with guiding national policies to control emissions and prepare the country for the impacts of global warming.

The Climate Change Committee has been at the forefront of advising the government on setting emissions targets, promoting renewable energy and implementing strategies to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Historically, the committee has not hesitated to criticise Britain's subpar performance in crucial areas such as flood defences and domestic energy efficiency.

The absence of a committee chair adds to concerns about the government's commitment to upholding environmental standards and addressing climate-related challenges.

Ed Miliband, the shadow secretary of state for climate change, emphasised the urgency of transforming the UK into a clean energy superpower to reduce power bills for families and enhance the nation's energy independence.

Miliband expressed concern, stating: "This is yet another indication that the Conservatives are abandoning the fight for lower bills, energy independence and climate leadership. Rishi Sunak should put an end to the delay and expedite this crucial appointment as soon as possible."

A primary responsibility of the committee is to outline the future allowable levels of greenhouse gases that the UK can emit.

The upcoming carbon budget, the seventh for the UK, will establish the emissions limit for the period from 2038 to 2042. This appointment holds significant importance in shaping the country's path towards a more sustainable and climate-resilient future.

As pressure mounts on Sunak to expedite the appointment process, environmental groups are calling for transparency and a swift decision to ensure that the CCC can resume its crucial role in guiding the country towards a sustainable and low-carbon future.

The eyes of the international community are on the UK, and any perceived lapse in commitment to addressing climate change could have far-reaching consequences, both environmentally and diplomatically.