The UK’s credibility to tackle climate change rests on government action over the next 18 months, the official adviser said today.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said the government had legislated to bring emissions down to net zero by 2050 – now it had to show it was serious about meeting its legal obligations.
The warning came in the CCC’s 2019 Progress Report to Parliament.
The document said UK action to curb greenhouse gas emissions had “fallen short” of what was needed to meet even the previous, less stringent, emissions targets.
In the past year, the government has delivered in full just one of the 25 headline policies: a carbon tax on power station emissions is continue after Breit. 10 of the required actions had not shown even partial progress.
Too often, efforts had been isolated to single departments or progressed too slowly, the CCC said. Plans, for example, for phasing out fossil fuel heating in properties off the gas grid and support for heat pumps from 2021 remained unclear.
The government’s own projections showed that its policies and plans were insufficient to meet the fourth or fifth climate budgets. These were set on the basis of achieving a less stringent 80% reduction in UK greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 would require steeper reductions in emissions than achieved so far, the CCC said.
Its chair, Lord Deben, said:
“The UK is the first major economy to set a net-zero emissions target and intends to host the world’s leaders at next year’s landmark climate conference (COP26).
“These are historic steps forward and position the UK at the forefront of the global low-carbon transition. But international ambition does not deliver domestic action.
“It’s time for the Government to show it takes its responsibilities seriously. Reducing emissions to net zero by 2050, requires real action by Government now.”
To meet the net-zero target, the UK will need to cut emissions by 15 MtCo2e per year, equivalent to 3% of total 2018 emissions, the report said.
This rate is 50% higher than the UK’s previous 2050 target and 30% higher than the average reductions achieved since 1990.
The 2019 Progress Report recommended:
- Net-zero policy is embedded across all levels and departments of Government
- Government polices to reduce UK emissions to net zero must be business-friendly
- The public must be fully engaged in the UK’s net-zero transition
- UK strongly leads international action to tackle climate change.
The committee said farmers should be rewarded through a new payment scheme to improve the natural environment. Building regulations should be reviewed to protect people from the dangerous effects of overheating, it suggested. Business should be required to disclose the financial risks it faces from climate change impacts. Average domestic water consumption should be reduced from 140 litres to 100 litres per day.
Priorities for the coming year should include developing a strategy for the use of hydrogen and plans to make carbon capture and storage operational by the mid-2020s. There should also be plans to phase out fossil fuels in the 2020s for all buildings not connected to the gas grid. New standards should be developed to ensure all new homes use low-carbon heating from 2025.
Rachel Reeves MP, the Labour chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, said:
“The Government’s recent commitment to reducing the UK’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 was welcome but targets are meaningless if not matched by concrete action. This latest CCC report shows the Government has failed dismally to back up its rhetoric with ambitious policies which deliver the cuts in emissions the UK needs to achieve.
“Getting to net-zero requires will require action across all parts of Government and our economy. Yet, in areas such as electric vehicles, carbon capture and storage, and renewable energy, we have seen the Government has been too lacking in the ambition and political will to deliver the concrete policies necessary to make an impact. The costs of inaction, for our economy, for our environment, and for our health, are too great for the UK Government to lag behind. The Government needs to get the UK back on track and come forward with the policies, actions and regulations needed to achieve the more ambitious target of net zero emissions by 2050.
“We look forward to questioning the BEIS Minister [on Tuesday 16 July] on the Government’s reaction to the CCC report and how the UK Government is going to deliver the policies needed to deliver on its legal obligations.”
Friends of the Earth’s head of policy, Mike Childs, said:
“It will take more than warm words to fix the climate crisis. Prime Minister Theresa May keeps talking about the need for climate action, while giving the green light to fracking and more roads and runways.
“Ending the nation’s reliance on planet-wrecking gas, coal and oil must be the number one priority for the next Prime Minister.
“Reining in the rogue Department for Transport is crucial. It’s been speeding in the wrong direction for far too long, with transport responsible for the largest source of polluting emissions.
“Billions of pounds are being squandered on gas-guzzling developments, while trams, trains, buses and cycling are starved of investment.
“There are huge economic and health benefits from leading the charge to a cleaner, safer future – all that’s lacking is the political will.”