The UK’s climate advisor has praised government plans to cut carbon emissions but called for detailed plans on how some ambitions would be achieved.
The net zero strategy sets out how ministers intend to halve UK emissions in just over a decade and reach net zero by 2050.
It was published last week, just days before the government hosts COP26 international climate talks in Glasgow.
The Climate Change Committee (CCC) responded this morning with its independent assessment, describing the strategy as a “genuine step forward” but “not the end of the road”. There remained a risk that planning or policy decisions could “blow the Net Zero Strategy off course”, it said.
Lord Deben, the CCC’s chairman, said:
“It is an achievable, affordable plan that will bring jobs, investment and wider benefits to the UK. It is also a strong example to bring to the COP26 summit of how to follow climate change targets with action.”
“The UK was the first major industrialised nation to set Net Zero into law – now we have policy plans to get us there. As we welcome world leaders to COP26 in Glasgow, that is an important statement.
Lord Deben said:
“Ministers have made the big decisions – to decarbonise the power sector by 2035, to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles, to back heat pumps for homes. And they have proposed policies to do it. I applaud their ambition.
“Now they must deliver these goals and fill in the remaining gaps in funding and implementation. My Committee will hold their feet to the fire, as we are required to under the Climate Change Act. This is the UK’s climate governance working as it should.”
The CCC said commitments in the net zero strategy were “broadly aligned” to its advice to government in December 2020. It said:
“Overall the strategy’s ambitions align to the UK’s emissions targets of Net Zero by 2050 anda 78% reduction from 1990 to 2035.”
The CCC welcomed:
- Government ambitions for a fully decarbonised power sector by 2035
- Phase-out of fossil fuels from surface transport, home heating and much of industry beginning without delay
- Proposed deployment levels of low-carbon options, such as offshore wind, low-carbon hydrogen production, carbon capture, electric cars, heat pumps, energy efficiency and tree planting for the next 15 years – this would deliver the carbon budgets
- Proposals for scaling up private investment in almost every area of the economy, including contract auctions for renewable power, a zero-emission vehicle mandate, obligation on boiler manufacturers to grow the heat pump market, grants and contracts for carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) and hydrogen use.
- Strong proposals on innovation and engaging business, on governance, local delivery and on skills to delivering net zero nation
The CCC was concerned about a lack of plans or vague proposals in some areas. It said:
“The Strategy is not the end of the road, however. There are some strategic gaps, as well as uncertainties over how the Government’s ambitions will be delivered in some sectors”.
The CCC was concerned about:
- Plans to tackle emissions from agriculture are still unclear – there needs to be “a credible strategy” integrated with the challenges for how we use land and soil
- Plans to deliver a major scale-up of the heat pump market in UK homes remain at an early stage.
- Commitments to remove price distortions that favour gas over electricity cannot be delayed
- Currently vague plans must be quickly pinned down for improving home energy efficiency for the 60% of UK households that are owner-occupiers but not in fuel poverty.
- Insufficient action currently proposed on public engagement
- No explicit ambition on diet change, or reductions in the growth of aviation
- Policies for managing travel demand have not been developed to match committed funding
- No full Net Zero test has been developed across government
The CCC said:
“The risk remains of policy or planning decisions being made that are incompatible with a Net Zero UK and could blow the Net Zero Strategy off course.”
The CCC added that the Treasury’s Net Zero Review had not followed through on decisions about major policy challenges.
“it remains unclear how the Treasury will use the tax system to support the transition to Net Zero, or how it will fill the fiscal gap implied by falling fuel duties.
“These gaps should now be addressed and the strong proposals in the Net Zero Strategy must move through consultation and policy development into implementation as quickly as possible.”