The UK government’s net zero plans have been criticised by the Climate Change Committee (CCC), warning the country is not on track to meet its emissions targets.
The CCC’s annual progress report to Parliament, published on June 28, found the government’s plans are currently “not ambitious enough” and “lack detail” in key areas.
The report specifically criticised the government’s failure to set clear targets for emissions reductions in high emitting sectors such as buildings and agriculture. It also warned that the government is relying too heavily on technological solutions that have not yet been proven at scale.
Furthermore, the report calls out recent developments in fossil fuels, specifically new oil & gas licensing and the decision on the Cumbrian coal mine, which it says sent a very concerning signal of the Government’s priorities.
“The government is sending confusing signals globally,” said Lord Deben, CCC chairman. “It is approving deep coal mining and pressing ahead with oil and gas licencing, while at the same time claiming to be a world leader on net zero.
“Our report highlights the effects of this failure. Our confidence in the United Kingdom achieving its 2030 target, which we praised for its ambition and upon which the UK’s international reputation hangs, has materially reduced in this last year.”
The report also calls out the UK’s delayed response to global efforts, stating “we have been slow to react to the US Inflation Reduction Act and the EU’s proposed Green Deal Industrial Plan” and suggesting these are now a “strong pull for green investment away from the UK.”
The government has previously defended its record on climate change, saying it is on track to meet its first three carbon budgets. But, the CCC has declared it is unconfident that the UK will meet its fifth carbon budget, which was adopted at the COP26 UN Climate Summit in Glasgow and requires a 68% reduction in emissions against 1990 levels by the end of the decade.
The report points to some “glimmers of hope” within the UK’s net zero transition, such as fast-growing electric car sales and the continued deployment of renewable electricity capacity. Furthermore, it confirms that UK greenhouse gas emissions have fallen 46% from 1990 levels – a rate of decarbonisation that is faster than many of the world’s leading economies – largely thanks to the almost removal of coal power from the grid over the past 15 years.
But overall, it warns that the pace of decarbonisation programmes remains “worryingly slow”, especially in key areas such as energy efficiency upgrades, heat pump installations, and tree planting.
“It is critical that the UK re-establishes its climate leadership with a clearer strategy to develop net zero industries and technologies in the UK and capture the economic benefits of net zero, with actions that create demand-pull for the critical technologies that will shape the UK’s progress over the next decade,” the report concluded.
In a video accompanying the report, Lord Deben sent a clear message to the Prime Minister with a call to action.
“Fighting climate change, confronting the cost of living crisis, and establishing Britain’s economic future all demand the same decisive actions.” he said. “There is still time to avoid being left behind in the race to gain advantages of a net zero world.
“Only ambition, action, and delivery can ensure the United Kingdom re-establishes its clear global climate leadership and makes the most of all the opportunities offered by a greener, cleaner, and more prosperous climate world.”
Below is a list of the key messages called out in the report:
- A lack of urgency: While the policy framework has continued to develop over the past year, this is not happening at the required pace for future targets.
- Stay firm on existing commitments and move to delivery: The Government has made several strong commitments, these must be restated and moved as swiftly as possible towards delivery.
- Retake a clear leadership role internationally: The UK will need to regain its international climate leadership.
- Immediate priority actions and policies: Action is needed in a range of areas to deliver on the Government’s emissions pathway.
- Develop demand-side and land use policies: The Government’s current strategy has considerable delivery risks due to its over-reliance on specific technological solutions, some of which have not yet been deployed at scale.
- Empower and inform households and communities to make low-carbon choices: Despite some positive steps to provide households with advice on reducing energy use in the last year, a coherent public engagement strategy on climate action is long overdue.
- Planning policy needs radical reform to support net zero: The planning system must have an overarching requirement that all planning decisions must be taken giving full regard to the imperative of net zero.
- Expansion of fossil fuel production is not in line with net zero: As well as pushing forward strongly with new low-carbon industries, net zero also makes it necessary to move away from high-carbon developments.
- The need for a framework to manage airport capacity: There has been continued airport expansion in recent years, counter to our assessment that there should be no net airport expansion across the UK.
You can find the full report, along with detailed recommendations to the government, here.
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