‘Time is running out’ for UK climate commitments, says CCC

Time is running out for realistic climate commitments, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) said in its latest progress report.

In what the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA) described as a ‘sobering’ report, the CCC said while the UK Government has made ‘historic climate promises’, it has been too slow to follow these with delivery.

This defining year for the UK’s climate credentials has been ‘marred by uncertainty and delay to a host of new climate strategies’, said the organisation, and those that have emerged have too often missed the mark.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Ten Point Plan was an important statement of ambition, but has yet to be backed with firm policies, said the CCC. While the organisation said there is still a window to make comprehensive climate plans, the government is taking a ‘high-stakes gamble’ to focus everything on a new Net Zero Strategy this autumn to achieve that.

In two progress reports published on 24 June, the CCC offers its appraisal of progress on the twin climate challenges: cutting emissions to net zero and adapting to the climate risks facing the UK. It draws on the CCC’s comprehensive analysis of the UK’s Sixth Carbon Budget and its recent third Climate Change Risk Assessment to present more than 200 climate policy recommendations, covering every area of government.

The CCC highlighted that sustained reductions in emissions require sustained government leadership, underpinned by a strong Net Zero Strategy:

  • A Net Zero Test would ensure that all government policy, including planning decisions, is compatible with UK climate targets

  • An ambitions Heat and Buildings Strategy that works for consumers is urgently needed

  • Delayed plans on surface transport, aviation, hydrogen, biomass, and food must be delivered

  • Plans for the power sector, industrial decarbonisation, the North Sea, peat and energy from waste must be strengthened

  • The big cross-cutting challenges of public engagement, fair funding and local delivery must be tackled.

Lord Deben, chairman of the CCC, said: “We are in the decisive decade for tackling climate change. The government must get real on delivery.

“Global Britain has to prove that it can lead a global change in how we treat our planet. Get it right and UK action will echo widely. Continue to be slow and timid, and the opportunity will slip from our hands. Between now and COP26, the world will look for delivery, not promises.”

'Very sober reading'

Dr Nina Skorupska CBE, CEO of the REA, said the report makes for ‘very sober reading’, adding that gaps in policy, inconsistent support and missed opportunities are undermining the government’s net-zero ambitions.

“The CCC’s progress report makes for very sober reading,” said Skorupska. “At the REA, we recognise and share frustrations that the report outlines. In too many areas there are gaps in policy, inconsistent support, and missed opportunities.

“Take the Heat and Buildings Strategy, for example. This was meant to be a landmark document that would set the agenda for heat decarbonisation over the next decade. It was meant to be published last year, but we are still waiting. Coupled with the closure of the Non-Domestic RHI in March, this significant delay has left a policy vacuum for our sector.

“In addition, the Green Homes Grant debacle really knocked industry confidence after a challenging year, and we are disappointed that our pleas for a VAT reduction on domestic clean technologies – in particular, domestic energy storage – have fallen on deaf ears.

“Warm words on net-zero ambitions do not stack up when clean technology installations are subject to 20% VAT and fossil fuel supplies continue to be set at just 5%.

“If the UK Government is to meet its very welcome ambitions on net zero, there needs to be consistent, robust, and long-term policy frameworks in place. There needs to be confidence that the government will abide by its commitments and they need to be proactive and responsive to our industry’s needs.

“We call on the government to immediately implement these policy measures and grab the low hanging fruit on offer to unleash investment and aid the green recovery.

“As this report demonstrates, the government must urgently match its rhetoric with action if we are able to have any chance of achieving net zero.”

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