The UK’s commitment to climate action has come under scrutiny following the COP28 climate conference, with concerns raised about mixed signals and a potential slowdown in ambition.
This is the message from a report released today (31 January) by the Climate Change Committee (CCC) which details the key outcomes from COP28, including the next steps for the UK.
The report acknowledges the UK’s positive role at the climate conference, including financial support for climate initiatives and backing for key goals like transitioning away from fossil fuels. However, it also highlights concerns about recent policy decisions that appear to contradict these commitments.
Specifically, the CCC points to Prime Minister Sunak’s September 2023 speech, which many believe weakened the UK’s net zero targets, and the government’s approval of a new coal mine and new oil and gas licences. These decisions, the report says, have “contributed to a perception of slowing UK climate ambition” among international delegates.
In September, Sunak announced a slew of changes, including the government’s delay of the ban on new petrol and diesel car sales and the weakening of energy efficiency requirements for buildings. These changes, the CCC argues, “increase longer-term risks” to decarbonisation and raise concerns about achieving the UK’s 2030 climate goals.
The message further compounds that of the CCC from back in its Annual Progress Report to Parliament in June 2023, which said that the CCC’s confidence in the government’s ability to meet its targets for 2030 and beyond had fallen “markedly” over the previous 12 months, and that the UK had lost its global leadership position on net zero.
In a 218-page response, the government again insisted that it remains resolutely committed to the UK’s net zero emissions goal, claiming that it is “partly or fully acting” on 85% of the CCC’s priority recommendations and that it is “confident” of meeting all the UK’s interim carbon budget targets over the coming years.
However, the latest report from the CCC notes some positive developments, such as the launch of an updated electric vehicle mandate and the passing of the Energy Act with a net zero remit for regulator Ofgem. However, the CCC warns that current policy packages still fall short of what is needed to meet the UK’s fair share of international climate commitments. It emphasises the need for a stronger domestic response, particularly in light of the agreements reached at COP28.
One area in particular includes a particular disconnect between the global adaptation framework, which reflects a global consensus on adaptation targets and the need for finance, technology and capacity-building support to achieve them, and the UK’s own national-level plan.
“The requirements under the new Framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation go beyond the UK’s current National Adaptation Programme (NAP3) which is not explicitly gender-responsive, did not go through consultation, and does not include additional commitments for public engagement on adaptation planning or actions”, the report says.
“The current NAP3 does not yet include a monitoring and evaluation system, which is also now required by the Framework. The UK Government should deliver on these new commitments from COP28 by updating NAP3 within the current policy cycle to ensure it fulfils the targets within the Framework on the GGA.”
The CCC says it will “continue to support the UK’s efforts through independent scrutiny of UK climate action,” and its next assessment of UK climate progress will be published in June.
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