Climate Change Committee progress report: Current policies will not deliver Net Zero

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The Climate Change Committee (CCC) have today released their latest progress report in which they state that the Government is failing to implement the policies required to achieve the country’s net zero goals.

The 600 page report, the first published since the Government released its’ net zero emissions by 2050 strategy prior to COP26 in October last year, points to “major failures” in policy and “scant evidence” of sufficient action to deliver these goals thus far. It also highlights agriculture and land use as having the “weakest policies”, despite the sector being essential to delivering climate goals, as well as those relating to biodiversity and food security. 

Climate Change Committee Chairman, Lord Deben, said:

“The UK is a champion in setting new climate goals, now we must be world-beaters in delivering them. In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, the country is crying out to end its dependence on expensive fossil fuels. I welcome the Government’s restated commitment to Net Zero, but holes must be plugged in its strategy urgently. The window to deliver real progress is short. We are eagle-eyed for the promised action.”

In the report the CCC warns that “credible” Government plans exist to achieve only a third of the emissions reductions needed to meet the Sixth Carbon Budget in 2035. It also notes that, despite the net zero target being signed into law 3 years ago, little progress has been made on the wider enablers of the transition, such as a public engagement strategy, a comprehensive reform of the planning system and the tax strategy required to achieve the climate change goals.

Progress has been strongest in areas such as the uptake of electric cars and the deployment of renewable electricity, with emissions from electricity generation having fallen by roughly 70% in the last 10 years. There is however a tremendous amount of work to do in the energy efficiency (in homes) sector, where a “shocking gap in policy” exists, especially surprising given soaring energy bills. Despite spending promises from the Government and commitments to new polices last year, very little action has seemingly been taken to address energy efficiency in the UK, even though the nation continues to have some of the least efficient homes in Europe.

Soil health details missing from climate change policies

While the post-Brexit agricultural transition plans encouraged by promising rewards for sustainable food production and for the delivery of “public goods” such as natural habitat restoration, carbon sequestration and healthy soils, the sector receives the least policy support in the opinion of the CCC.

The CCC have also provided 300 recommendations in the report, all of which need to be implemented this year or next, that will move us from strategy to implementation, including:

  • Provide detail on how post-CAP agricultural subsidies and schemes will assist climate change mitigation, as well as wider environmental goals.
  • Publish an assessment of residual waste treatment capacity needs through to 2050, consistent with meeting committed and prospective recycling and waste reduction targets.
  • Remove legacy policy costs associated with the historical deployment of less mature low-carbon electricity generation from electricity prices.
  • Create a public energy advice service to provide households with guidance on decarbonising and adapting their homes to climate change by this summer, as committed in the Energy Security Strategy.
  • Outline plans for converting existing heat networks to low-carbon, and ensure that new heat networks are low-carbon from the start.

Reacting to the report, Greenpeace UK’s political campaigner, Ami McCarthy, said:

It’s kind of ironic that the Climate Change Committee has named this a Progress Report when the government’s progress on climate policy is grinding to a standstill.

“The cost of living crisis should be adding impetus to the kind of action we need to see to stop the climate-wrecking energy waste from our homes, since the solution to both problems – an urgently implemented nationwide insulation programme – is the same. Yet this government seems intent on driving action from fossil fuel giants instead, offering tax breaks to encourage new drilling under the false pretence that it will get us out of this mess.

“The longer this government drags its feet on greening our homes, delivering renewables and moving our food production system away from meat, the sharper and more costly the shift will be further down the line. Time is running out. The government must roll up its sleeves and deliver the benefits of a climate friendly economy for all.”

Head of analysis at the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), Dr Simon Cran-McGreehin, commented:

“The Climate Change Committee’s message is clear: the UK has a strong net-zero strategy, but the Government needs to back its words with action to accelerate the clean transition if we’re to find a way out of the cost of living crisis, shield ourselves from future gas crises, and avoid the cost of further climate change.”  

Soil Association Head of Farming Policy Gareth Morgan said:

“The Climate Change Committee’s warning that the UK will not reach net zero by 2050 is alarming but not a surprise. The committee is right to highlight that progress in reducing farming emissions has been glacial – government urgently needs to wake up to the scale of the challenge.

“The committee is also right to challenge the government’s over-reliance on innovation and productivity gains to improve farm sustainability. We should act now to support a rapid shift to climate and nature-friendly farming across the UK, as evidence shows that agroecology can help us create a productive, diverse food system that is resilient in the face of a changing climate. We don’t have time to wait, and we can do this now.”

Dr Nina Skorupska, the Chief Executive of the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA), said:

“The latest CCC report is direct in its assessments and we at the REA echo them. There remain large gaps in energy efficiency policy and, while there has been good progress on the decarbonisation of power, it is clear that much more needs to be done on land use, heat and transport too.” 

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas commented:

“This report is an utterly damning indictment of government inaction. When we’re in an urgent race against time to tackle the climate emergency, with the prime minister himself warning that we’re at one minute to midnight, his own government is dawdling in the slow lane.

“The CCC rightly points to the yawning gap between words and delivery. In truth, words are cheap. Boris Johnson might claim to be world-beating, but on emissions reduction, he’s climate-cheating: you can’t con your way out of a climate emergency.”

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee chair Darren Jones said:

“The CCC’s report on the Government’s progress to net zero is dire, and if not acted upon, will be catastrophic for the country and the planet.

“Our committee sounded the alarm on the lack of insulation in British homes, and the lack of any coherent strategy to decarbonise heat in homes at the beginning of the year. A failed scheme to incentivise insulation is yet to be replaced and despite seeking an update we have heard no assurances from the Business Secretary that any new scheme would be announced soon and properly funded.”

The Climate Change Committee’s progress report to parliament, including the recommendations for action, can be read in full here.

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