UK strategy to achieve climate goals “will not deliver net-zero”

A new Progress Report by the independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) finds major failures in delivery programmes towards the achievement of the UK’s climate goals.

In a landmark 600-page assessment, the CCC has revamped its framework for monitoring the UK’s climate progress, focusing on the changes needed on the ground to achieve Net Zero. Across the economy, the CCC has developed detailed new progress indicators to assess the risks of Net Zero delivery.

Last year, the CCC applauded the Government for setting ambitious targets and launching a new Net Zero Strategy. Policies are now in place for most sectors of the economy, but a thorough review of progress finds scant evidence of delivery against these headline goals so far. There are some bright spots of progress, but in most areas the likelihood of under-delivery is high.

For the UK’s climate lead to be effective, the CCC said that the world must have confidence that the UK will keep its promises and that it has a clear and effective programme to achieve their commitments.

CCC 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.”

UK emissions are now almost half (47 per cent) their 1990 levels. Emissions rose 4 per cent in 2021 as the economy began to recover from COVID-19 but were still 10 per cent below 2019 levels. Further progress must be led by Government policies with clear direction, credible delivery mechanisms and suitable incentives to shape private sector action. In no sector of the economy is this yet complete.

The report makes over 300 recommendations for filling out policies over the next year, reflecting the scale of the task at hand as the Government moves from strategy to implementation. The areas of strongest progress are backed and led by well-designed Government policy, including the deployment of renewable electricity, and the adoption of electric cars.

Emissions from electricity generation have fallen by nearly 70 per cent in the last decade and, with offshore wind, business has shown that given the right market conditions and support it can cut costs dramatically and deploy low-carbon solutions rapidly. Electric cars are also being adopted in greater numbers each year, showing that consumers and households are willing to adopt low-carbon options when offered a cost-effective, good quality product.

In other areas, low-carbon options remain in their infancy. Policy has not yet begun to guide the promised private sector action in ensuring energy efficiency within homes, which are subject to a shocking gap in policy for better insulation, and in agriculture and land use, which have the weakest policies in the CCC’s assessment despite being vital to delivering Net Zero alongside the Government’s othjer goals on food security and biodiversity.

The report concludes that the rest of the world must also get to grips with the delivery of Net Zero. UK success is doubly important as an example of what can be achieved, as a template for others to draw on. Effective delivery of Net Zero will be needed across the world if the Glasgow Climate Pact is to have the legacy that the UK aimed for at COP26 last year.

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