Politics

Government has 18 months to act on climate change – official adviser

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Photo: DrillOrDrop

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.”

Targets

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.

Priorities

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.

Reaction

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.”

21 replies »

  1. Given that the UK produces such a small proportion of the worlds GHG emissions, it’s not entirely clear what actions the government should take in the next 18 months that are going to have a significant impact on climate change. One thing for sure, the obsession of the “environmentalists” with fracking in the UK isn’t going to do anything to help. Surely, there are constructive actions/protests/campaigns that they could be doing that would be more effective.

    • Judith – The CCC sets out in their 2019 report exactly why the U.K. is obliged and must, along with all the other large economies of the world, play a lead role in working together to reduce emissions. And I’m sure you must have read this as you regularly state that you always read reports. Percentage of global emissions is not the full picture as emissions per capita is also important and shows for example that countries like China have a lower per capita figure than many developed countries. I assume you are being glib to make such a weak argument. Particularly as the same argument could be applied to many standards and laws the U.K. upholds. Why bother if it is worse elsewhere. The U.K. has international influence and the opportunity to be at the forefront of new technologies a leader in expertise and manufacturing and to be prepared for this global transition away from fossil fuels. We all have to change as climate change is the biggest threat we face. Far better to embrace and lead this inevitable change than to have it imposed and to play catch up. And as for fracking I cannot see how extracting more fossil fuels is going to help reduce global emissions. Take the US as an example, initially emissions fell as gas displaced coal but last year emissions increased by over 3% despite closing coal power plants. Not to mention the US exported the coal it mined but no longer required for domestic consumption. All adding to an increase in global emissions. There are many ways to reduce gas consumption in the U.K. including LNG without fracking. Increased energy efficiencies more renewables etc etc. And if memory serves me correctly isn’t our gas consumption falling year on year? Plus the government has stated that we have gas energy security for the next 20 years without the need to frack. You may be a fan of fracking but the public is not and fracking is considered by many scientists and climate change experts not compatible with tackling climate change.

      • Reduce gas consumptiion by using more renewables? The more wind turbines that are erected, and more solar panels, will mean more standby gas powered generation to cover for the variable and intemittent renewables. Gas energy security if we buy from Europe and Russia? Not a good long term policy for the UK, we need to frack for UK natural gas.

      • So, KatT, as USA reverses exporting industry its emissions rise! Shock/horror. Another example of twisting reality into a fantasy.

        But, looking at industry world wide and its influence upon the environment GLOBALLY I think I might prefer USA to be producing and exporting oil than, for example, Venezuela. Equally, if there is the opportunity, I would prefer UK to produce rather than import from USA-again, on the basis of the environment GLOBALLY. The UK will NOT suddenly consume either more gas or more oil because it is “home grown” rather than imported. Maybe the USA would lose some export market and produce less? No-because other countries are increasing their usage.

        No one is suggesting that UK should not take action but it needs to be proportionate. Our efforts will make very little difference globally and few will take much notice of what the UK does. The example currently of electric vehicles is classic. So much energy being put into producing something that fails to meet the requirements of the customer. Whilst that sort of blind dogma persists it will only create a negative influence. UK sales of electric vehicles are already declining and the reasons being given by consumers are still as they were-too expensive, too little range and no solution to charging within 3 minutes-or so-rather than 30 minutes or many hours. Produce a product the market wants and they will buy it.

        The recent election in Australia was a pretty good indication that politicians can virtue signal all they like but if they do so without the voters agreement they lose an election and the coal mine gets developed.

        The majority of people in UK are NOT against fracking, with many of them not seeing it as important enough to even consider. And, your gas consumption suggestions take absolutely no account of hydrogen production. I suspect you are not alone in that but it will not take many of those sort of errors becoming evident for the voters to totally turn against any sort of engagement. Most are pretty skeptical around the track record of the UK regarding energy policy and the history of poor Government decisions following too much influence from vested interests. I suspect we will see projects like the Swansea Lagoon go ahead, as gesture politics. I would assess it will take years of debate to get it agreed, it will be late and over budget and will end up as a very expensive pier. There have been a whole raft of similar problems with schemes that were thought to be the solution and as voters are expected to contribute huge taxes to fund they will rightly turn against and vote accordingly. N.Ireland is still suffering from the debacle of their green energy scheme.

        There needs to be proper focus upon the areas that are proven. Climate change is being utilised by all sorts of vested interest in an attempt to get their chunk of huge amounts of tax payers cash. Austerity will be ramped up many times to achieve an extra £1 TRILLION tax spend, so remember the Australian lesson.

      • Mr Collyer I agree the majority of people in UK are NOT against fracking. But neither is there a majority FOR fracking. In fact 40% are against it (and 12% are for it). Compare that with only 37% of the electorate voting to leave the EU,
        I am intrigued by your comment “with many of them not seeing it as important enough to even consider.” Wow, you can read minds now! No, our experience of talking to people who have not considered it is that they were not fully aware.

        • David – the majority of the population are clueless about the science behind fracking or its safety – their opinion is irrelevant.

    • The obsession with the dark greens and banning fracking is not the same as the light greens and climate change Judith. One is about stopping the pollution of air and water (dark) and the other is about GHG emissions (light). I thought I’d make that clear because your comment insinuates all environmentalists have the same goal, which is false. I thought you were well informed, but obviously not. Head in to many quantitative reports and not enough common sense 🙂

      • Mr Collyer I agree the majority of people in UK are NOT against fracking. But neither is there a majority FOR fracking. In fact 40% are against it (and 12% are for it). Compare that with only 37% of the electorate voting to leave the EU,
        I am intrigued by your comment “with many of them not seeing it as important enough to even consider.” Wow, you can read minds now! No, our experience of talking to people who have not considered it is that they were not fully aware.

        • No, David my experience is that there are an awful lot, usually the majority, who will not become excited, one way or another, until they can see the benefit side of the equation. Perhaps we talk with different people. I suppose on-line shopping returners are your audience.

          Now, you might like to believe that the UK population is so blinkered it will make a product, or project, decision without that information but that simply shows your inability to use the common sense that most individuals do. There are some pretty decent text books on marketing out there, which will lead you into the importance of assessing benefits against cost. I certainly know very few who would only look at one side of that equation-unless they are promoting the Swansea Lagoon, or anti frackers.

          But interesting you agree with my arithmetic and disagree with those antis who try and modify it. Small step to enlightenment, but not likely to win over many antis. Careful, some have been excommunicated for less.

          By the way, a small sample survey is a little different than the UK voting population, so maybe not wise to conflate the two. Remember the pre Scottish Referendum polls!

      • frackinglawforsale – where do the Wacky Greens fit in to your classification – you know the ones – they are so crazy that they really believe rad waste will be dumped down the boreholes.

    • Got to start somewhere Judith!
      Our own doorstep is the logical place as less travelling is required!
      Especially as fracking UK has not produced any gas for the national grid yet and isn’t looking like it’s going to!!
      Important to set a good example too, after all we’re only a tiny windy Country surrounded by sea so going completely fossil fuel free should be achievable.

      • Peter – indeed we are a small country but that’s a problem given our large population. You still don’t seem to address the issue of energy storage which being a NIMBY I don’t think you’ll find many of the current options particularly palatable.

    • Not ‘all business friendly’ but nett business friendly so gains made in providing renewable energy opportunities should balance losses in the fossil fuel industry I read the message regarding Government Policy to mean.
      Makes sense.

  2. Its interesting that this report has no reference to shale gas. Thats the same as the 2018 report. The climate change impact of using gas from distant places and imported as LNG is about 20% higher than locally produced shale gas, and that is ignoring methane leakage. UK regulations have guaranteed that methane emissions will be controlled and monitored. Exporting our carbon emissions is hardly beneficial to the world. See https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/535208/CCC_Response_new_template_FINAL.pdf

    The big success noted in the report is the continuing reduction of emissions from the Power sector, done by using renewables, backed up by gas…. All other sectors are struggling to reduce emissions.

    If we are to move the gas grid to hydrogen, where will that come from? That is available from electrolysis of water IF we had a huge surplus of wind. Meanwhile, in the real world, natural gas is the main source of that high energy fuel.

    The fact is that within the shale gas debate, using our own gas, produced under strict regulation (which is in place) is a sensible course. Better than importing LNG from our enemies (Russia) which we are doing more now, with the opening of Nordstream 2, especially as Russian production methods are not nearly as regulated as the UK.

    • Ken – I know several people who contributed to this report and they are certain we’ll be using gas beyond 2050 and they are not against shale gas.

  3. Well, you read it as you wish Peter. However, the reality is that UK business will require a competitive, reliable and secure supply of energy otherwise we will continue to meet climate change targets by exporting industry-as we have done so far. How much UK diesel usage is covered by UK manufacture now, for example?

    Today it is announced that UK tankers require Navy protection in the Gulf. How much more tax are you willing to pay to have the naval power required to continue to do that? Oh, by the way, the new aircraft carrier limped back to UK yesterday as there was a leak! (Seems a lot of those about.) Maybe stopping benefit fraud would help out.

    • Ever checked to see how long it takes for a tree to mature, TW? They are not that “friendly” reference on shore wind turbines, which would upset John. They also require a heck of a lot of subsidising for at least 30 years.

      But, I like the idea and it has its place. It is not a game changer while we have the current level of population and a need for them to be fed.

      • The good news Marty is that as trees are growing, they reduce the CO2, the bad news – when they are mature the net effect is zero, so there will be a need to fell said tree and replant to gain any effect in reducing emissions. Of course, if you then burn said mature tree it will release most of the stored CO2 quickly or as it decomposes, the same will happen over time.

        The bottom line folks, is that we need to evolve and adapt; we cannot keep trying to put solutions forward that continue to waste energy.

        Driving a car powered by electricity generated by gas is pointless in reducing emissions; just a benefit of course to asthmatics et al, for now at least.

        If you do not maximise on renewables to produce electricity you are wasting a finite source – gas, and create a world not fit for humans.

        If you do not reduce consumption of energy now, we will literally burn ourselves out.

        Living with renewables for as long as I have tells me that it can be done; the first year was tricky, but now it’s second nature, I work within the confines of the energy production, not the other way around.

        We need to change the way we do things, our transport systems, our wasteful consumption of the planets resources, our working patterns, educational institutions and attitudes to energy.

        There is a fictitious Vulcan saying [Spock, Star Trek fans] that many often mouth ‘The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few’…in actual fact right now in the developed world the needs of the few massively outweigh the needs of the many.

        We need to start to share resources, rather than compete for them, reduce and dismiss want as need. Maybe then we can avoid our own destruction?

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