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Government “too slow” in its actions to achieve environmental goals says Climate Change Committee

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A new report assessing the UK’s progress in reducing harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has been released by The Climate Change Committee (CCC), labelling Government progress in meeting our environmental targets as “worrying slow”. 

When releasing the report, the CCC also stated that its’ confidence in the UK meeting its goals from 2030 onwards is “now markedly less than it was a year ago”, despite the release of Government’s Carbon Budget Delivery Plan earlier this year.

Lord Deben, Chairman of the Climate Change Committee, said:

“The lesson of my ten years at the Climate Change Committee is that early action benefits the people of this country and helps us to meet the challenges of the coming decades more cheaply and more easily. Yet, even in these times of extraordinary fossil fuel prices, Government has been too slow to embrace cleaner, cheaper alternatives and too keen to support new production of coal, oil and gas. There is a worrying hesitancy by Ministers to lead the country to the next stage of Net Zero commitments.

“I urge the Government to regroup on Net Zero and commit to bolder delivery. This is a period when pace must be prioritised over perfection.”

The report highlights that GHG emissions in the UK have dropped by 46% from 1990 levels, meaning that the recent rate of annual emissions reduction outside the electricity supply sector needs to quadruple if a reduction of 68% is to be achieved by 2030, as per the commitments at COP26.

While acknowledging growth in the sale of electric cars and renewables, and welcoming  the creation of the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, the report goes on to state that progress has not been made on seven of the priority areas the CCC made in 2022, while Defra have failed to achieve any of the recommendations made at the same time.

The CCC also highlighted some its top concerns in the new report, including:

  • Confusing signals. Actions such as the support for new oil and gas drilling, and consent to open a new coal mine in Cumbria have raised concerns over Government’s climate priorities.
  • Lack of support for decarbonised industry. While ambitions are high for decarbonised steel production, there remains no clear direction on how this will be achieved, and incentives are still lacking for the electrification of industry. More detail on certain announcements, such as the recent £20 billion fund for carbon capture and storage, are urgently required.
  • Planning reform. An urgent action voiced by the vast majority of the clean energy sector, especially those within the onshore wind communities, where new developments in England have effectively been blocked in recent years. Many feel that a fully decarbonised energy system will be near-impossible without this and the following point.
  • Grid reforms. Essential upgrades to the grid and additions to existing infrastructure are essential if we’re to achieve the decarbonisation goals, as Energy Now recently discussed with Roisin Quinn, the Director of Customer Connections at National Grid.
  • Hydrogen. Currently a strategic decision from Government on the role of hydrogen in heating systems is not expected until 2026, meaning other areas must be accelerated, such as the greater deployment of renewables.
  • Land Use reforms. While progress has been made on essential reforms linking to the Environmental Land Management policy, more detail and action are urgently required to enable farmers to plan and align businesses accordingly. 

Reaction to the report has mainly echoed the CCC’s findings, calling for a stop to the “confusing signals” and urgent action to fill policy gaps and remove some of the barriers facing the UK’s transition. 

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

“As is highlighted in the CCC’s report, the UK has indeed sent confusing signals on its climate priorities to the global community. We agree with the CCC’s criticism of Government in the recent months of prioritising new fossil fuel exploration, while other advanced countries are providing renewed fiscal support and legislation to advance the energy transition, such as the EU Green Deal Package and the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act.

“It is clear that government should now use the upcoming Autumn Statement to respond to this report by delivering real polices designed to deliver against the Governments own power, heat, transport and circular economy targets. The budget must respond to significant policy gaps that remain and focus on creating an attractive market for low carbon investment. The targets are there, but government must now crack on with delivery.”

Emma Pinchbeck, Chief Executive Officer at Energy UK, said:

“The UK has the potential to stand at the forefront of the Net Zero race, leading the way on innovation, skills, manufacture, and applications for low-carbon technologies. Government’s welcome, and necessary, ambition in targets must be supported by urgent action to deliver a Net Zero economy.

“The power sector acts as an example of the pace of change that can be delivered under ambitious targets with robust strategies for delivery. If we fail to see focussed and comprehensive interventions as recommended by the Climate Change Committee, the UK risks missing out on the significant opportunities for growth, job creation, and export presented by Net Zero.“

Mike Childs, head of policy at Friends of the Earth, said:

“Today’s progress report is a damning assessment of the government’s new carbon reduction strategy. Its own advisors say there are now only credible plans for less than a quarter of the emissions cuts needed to meet the UK’s legally binding climate targets – an alarming backwards step from last year when just 39% of plans were deemed fit for purpose.

“There are myriad reasons why the government must accelerate climate action, not least because of the very real impacts we’re already witnessing such as record-breaking wildfires in Canada and a deadly heatwave in India. We also stand to benefit in the way of jobs, economic growth and lower energy bills. Despite all this, the Prime Minister and his government are clearly lagging well behind – they must take immediate action to get back on track.”

Chris Friedler, Policy Manager at the ADE, said:

“Inaction speaks louder than words – today’s CCC report demonstrates yet again that policy indecision across the decentralised energy sector is hampering efforts to progress a low carbon, low cost, and secure energy future.  

Solar Energy UK Chief Executive Chris Hewett said:

“The CCC is right to conclude that solar energy growth must increase markedly for the UK to reach its climate and energy targets. But I have every expectation that next year’s report will reach very different conclusions

By then, the taskforce, which I co-chair with energy minister Graham Stuart, will have outlined what needs to be done to resolve the sector’s key blockers to growth and maximise its contribution to jobs and the economy.”

Lawrence Slade, Chief Executive, Energy Networks Association, said:

“This is a major wake-up call from the CCC. The country is risking decision paralysis if deadlines and milestones slip.

“In particular, there’s a clear imperative for radical reform in planning policy so the government, regulators, local authorities and the energy sector can create a more straightforward and streamlined process for delivering vital projects and upgrades, such as grid infrastructure.”

Prof Mike Berners-Lee, Lancaster Environment Centre, said:

“This report is a depressing account of the UK Government’s failure to honour its commitments. The rest of the world, along with UK citizens, are realising that when the UK Government commits to something, it doesn’t always mean much. Promises of strong climate action, followed by such a lame response, along with approval of new coal, oil and gas, are an insult and make the UK look both ridiculous and insincere.”

The full report can be downloaded from the Climate Change Committee’s website.

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