Climate Change Committee (CCC) unveils its Sixth Carbon Budget

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The CCC has released its Sixth Carbon Budget, stating that the UK will need to cut emissions by 78% by 2035 to meet its Net-Zero target by 2050.

To deliver this, the CCC is calling for a “major investment programme” across the country, largely delivered by the private sector, with said investment being key to the UK’s economic recovery. 

The message to Government is clear: the 2020s must be the decisive decade of progress and action on climate change. By the early 2030s, every new car and van, and every replacement boiler must be zero-carbon; by 2035, all UK electricity production will be zero carbon. Modern low-carbon industries will grow; producing hydrogen; capturing carbon; creating new woodlands; renovating and decarbonising the UK’s 28 million homes, and providing hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the UK. The CCC concludes that these changes are feasible and affordable but only if they are led by decisive action from Government now. 

Climate Change Committee Chairman, Lord Deben, said:

“The Sixth Carbon Budget is a clear message to the world that the UK is open for low-carbon business. It’s ambitious, realistic and affordable. This is the right carbon budget for the UK at the right time. We deliver our recommendations to Government with genuine enthusiasm, knowing that Britain’s decisive zero-carbon transition brings real benefits to our people and our businesses while making the fundamental changes necessary to protect our planet.”

“As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sixth Carbon Budget is a chance to jump-start the UK’s economic recovery. Anything less would shut us out of new economic opportunities. It would also undermine our role as President of the next UN climate talks.”

The CCC has highlighted four key steps to achieving the goals laid out in the budget:

  • Take up of low-carbon solutions. People and businesses will choose to adopt low-carbon solutions, as high carbon options are progressively phased out. By the early 2030s all new cars and vans and all boiler replacements in homes and other buildings are low-carbon – largely electric. By 2040 all new trucks are low-carbon. UK industry shifts to using renewable electricity or hydrogen instead of fossil fuels, or captures its carbon emissions, storing them safely under the sea.
  • Expansion of low-carbon energy supplies. UK electricity production is zero carbon by 2035. Offshore wind becomes the backbone of the whole UK energy system, growing from the Prime Minister’s promised 40GW in 2030 to 100GW or more by 2050. New uses for this clean electricity are found in transport, heating and industry, pushing up electricity demand by a half over the next 15 years, and doubling or even trebling demand by 2050. Low-carbon hydrogen scales-up to be almost as large, in 2050, as electricity production is today. Hydrogen is used as a shipping and transport fuel and in industry, and potentially in some buildings, as a replacement for natural gas for heating.
  • Reducing demand for carbon-intensive activities. The UK wastes fewer resources and reduces its reliance on high-carbon goods. Buildings lose less energy through a national programme to improve insulation across the UK. Diets change, reducing our consumption of high-carbon meat and dairy products by 20% by 2030, with further reductions in later years. There are fewer car miles travelled and demand for flights grows more slowly. These changes bring striking positive benefits for health and well-being.
  • Land and greenhouse gas removals. There is a transformation in agriculture and the use of farmland while maintaining the same levels of food per head produced today. By 2035, 460,000 hectares of new mixed woodland are planted to remove CO2 and deliver wider environmental benefits. 260,000 hectares of farmland shifts to producing energy crops. Woodland rises from 13% of UK land today to 15% by 2035 and 18% by 2050. Peatlands are widely restored and managed sustainably.

Industry reaction to the budget has been mostly positive, however NFU Deputy President Stuart Robert expressed concerns:

“While we agree with the CCC that there are multiple pathways to meet the carbon budget, it’s really disappointing that the comprehensive document overlooks the fact that people can continue to enjoy meat and dairy at the same time as reducing their carbon footprint, by considering where and how food is produced. For example, British farming has an ambition to be net zero by 2040 and the NFU’s plan outlines how we can achieve this while maintaining, if not increasing, our production of climate-friendly food.

“In Britain we already produce some of the most sustainable meat and dairy products in the world. Greenhouse gas emissions from UK beef are half that of the world average and we are continually improving as we transition to a net zero agriculture.”

“It is important that we all understand the significance of where and how our food has been produced and choosing the most sustainable option. If you want to continue eating quality, nutritious red meat and dairy while also doing your bit for the planet, it can be as simple as buying British and checking where your red meat has been sourced when eating out.

“We will examine the details of the CCC report and continue working with government to ensure British farming can continue to deliver sustainable climate friendly food.”

Dr Nina Skorupska CBE, Chief Executive of the REA, said:

“The headline from the Sixth Carbon Budget will be the 78% reduction in GHG emissions being brought forward by 15 years and that this can be achieved whilst supporting green jobs growth and an economic recovery. There are many additional and welcome elements within the report – the support for a range of bioenergy technologies and energy crops; the doubling of electricity generation which will all be low-carbon; and the restoration of peat landscapes and new woodland, are particular highlights.

“We do believe that more needs to be done with regards to the aviation sector and the heavy goods vehicle market for road transport. The plans to transition to low-carbon alternatives by 2050 and 2040, respectively, are too conservative to have a significant impact. We know that the Capex and Opex savings will balance out any short-term cost if there is the ambition to take action sooner.

“Nevertheless, this Carbon Budget does provide a basis from which the government can look to build their carbon reduction agenda. If we start reducing emissions today rather than tomorrow, we will have a far greater chance of avoiding global temperature rises and tackling climate change.”

Morag Watson, Director of Policy at Scottish Renewables, said:

“We welcome the CCC’s Sixth Carbon Budget, which contains advice to Government to move faster to reach net-zero and recognition that renewable technologies are key to delivering the cheap, low-carbon energy we need to achieve this.

“The report highlights that a portfolio of zero-carbon generation technologies will be needed to reach these ambitions. Scotland’s abundant wind resources, leading position in onshore wind, world-leading floating offshore wind projects, marine energy technologies and expertise and the restoration of our peatlands, supported by the renewable energy industry, will play a key role in this.

“The report also outlines that achieving our ambitious emissions reduction targets can be done at low overall cost and would bring enormous socio-economic opportunities across the country, particularly to Scotland’s most remote and rural areas.

“By adopting the measures recommended in this report the UK Government would demonstrate the ambitious global leadership required from the host of COP26 and ensure the UK is leading global efforts to tackle climate change.”

Laura Bishop, Chair of the Ground Source Heat Pump Association said:

“There is a huge amount of content in the CCC’s report to gladden the hearts of the heat pump sector, with an ever stronger emphasis on the dominant role that electrification will play for heat in buildings.”

“It is essential that the Government sets a clear commitment to electrification through the 2020s, including a stable and long-term support framework to build the heat pump supply chain to sufficient scale to deliver near-term emissions reductions and keep full electrification on the table.”

CLA Deputy President Mark Tufnell said:

“Cutting greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 63% across the economy over the next 15 years is an extremely ambitious target.

“To reach this goal, the CCC has scaled up the level of ambition required from the agriculture and land use sectors, calling for emission reductions in farming alongside large targets for tree planting and peatland restoration – strengthening land use is a big part of the ‘solution’ to achieving net zero.

“For this to be feasible, government policies to support urgent action from English and Welsh landowners need to be put in place. The new Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMS) is seen as the main vehicle to reduce these emissions from agriculture, alongside increasing biodiversity and meeting other environmental targets. However, ELMS will not be available until 2024, and so we also need the right policy framework to allow private investment to come onstream, such as for carbon offsetting.

“Many rural businesses are already taking steps to move towards low carbon farming practices from improving sequestration and carbon storage, and are keen to encourage the rapid adoption of new technologies and innovation. However, the wider needs of both farming and nature must be considered in plans to combat climate change.”

“The CLA is also supportive of decarbonising the building stock, although this hugely ambitious target can only be achieved if the EPC methodology accurately assesses the thermal capacity of older buildings and the metric moves from using the fuel cost to carbon cost in its calculations. Targeted support must be made available for off-gas grid rural homes to enable an effective transition to low carbon heating. Furthermore, rural electricity grids need to be upgraded to cope with more electric heating.”

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