‘A shocking indictment of inaction’: UK’s green economy reacts to latest Climate Change Committee report to Parliament
Prominent groups and individuals across the UK's green economy are calling on the Government to make policy interventions that would reduce energy bills for homes and businesses - as well as cutting emissions - as Ministers face critisicm from the Climate Change Committee (CCC).
The CCC has today (29 June) published its latest annual progress report to Parliament, charting national annual emissions to date and likely emissions trajectories based on confirmed policy packages. The report also looks at the ways Whitehall is taking (and missing) opportunities to engage businesses, local authorities, the general public and other key groups with its 2050 net-zero target.
Overall, the report is critical of the Government’s progress to date and its ability to deliver emissions reductions in the future. It warns that the UK is set to deliver, at most, just two-thirds of the emissions reductions the Government is committed to in its Sixth Carbon Budget, with major issues in turning long-term targets into short-term action in many parts of the economy. These include agriculture and land use, heat and buildings. Closing policy gaps, the report emphasises, presents an opportunity for the Government to respond to the cost-of-living crisis as well as to get on track to meet its long-term, legally binding climate commitments.
Here, edie rounds up all the key reactions to the CCC’s assessment from across the UK’s green economy.
Angus Walker, partner at law firm BDB Pitmans, said: “The CCC’s annual report to Parliament is lengthy (637 pages) and ambitious (327 recommendations). The main clash with the Government is on curbing public behaviour, which the Government doesn’t want to do: the CCC wants us to eat less meat and dairy, fly less, and convert our homes to electricity with better insulation. Instead, the government is relying too much on untested technology in aviation and greenhouse gas removals and its building strategy may not work. There are a couple of bright spots: electric cars and offshore wind are doing well, but in general progress is not in line with ambitions.”
The Aldersgate Group’s head of policy Ana Musat said: “This progress report clearly shows that, at a time of energy crisis, the UK must not delay the delivery of clear policy programmes to deliver net-zero. This is critical to bolster energy security and reduce exposure to volatile fossil fuel prices, as well as lower energy costs for households and industrial users. Businesses recognise that moving further and faster towards net-zero can help address these crises, and unlock important opportunities for innovation, job creation and competitiveness.
“Although it has been good to see Government reaffirming the crucial role of net zero in delivering energy security and levelling up the country, today’s report shows that actual progress has been uneven, with major gaps in areas like energy efficiency, land use and agriculture.
“To deliver faster progress, Government should now focus on continuing to plug the gaps in the Net Zero Strategy as recommended by the CCC, in particular on speeding up the deployment of low-cost renewables by streamlining the planning system and better aligning the awarding of offshore leases with consent for onshore infrastructure. Beyond this, net-zero delivery must become a cross-government priority, with departments across Whitehall and regulators having a clearer duty to place net-zero at the heart of policymaking and spending decisions. With consistent policy signals and a stable regulatory framework, private investment will do the heavy lifting in terms of meeting the cost of the transition.”
The ECIU’s head of analysis Dr Simon Cran-McGreehin said: “The Committee’s message is clear: the UK has a strong net-zero strategy, but the Government needs to back its words with action to accelerate the clean transition if we’re to find a way out of the cost-of-living crisis, shield ourselves from future gas crises, and avoid the cost of further climate change.
“Whilst the Government is already doubling down on success stories such as offshore wind that’s built a new industry and delivered massive cost savings, it’s missing a trick by not supporting onshore wind that’s hugely popular with the public and insulation that would cut heating bills and reduce our exposure to volatile fossil fuel markets. None of this is new – we just need to get on and do it.”
The ECIU’s climate and land programme lead Matt Williams said: “The way we care for our land is always the bridesmaid, never the bride, so to speak, in the Government’s net-zero plans. Once again it’s been singled out by the Committee for special mention. It’s time for them to get the same kind of low-carbon overhaul that other sectors, like transport and energy, are benefitting from.
“Until that happens, farmers will remain exposed to volatile oil and gas prices that also drive up the cost of fertilisers. Our land will continue to leak emissions unless we restore peatlands and plant the forests the Government has committed to creating.”
The Institution of Civil Engineers’ director of policy Chris Richards said: “Infrastructure professionals will take heart from the progress outlined in today’s report – emissions and the cost of deploying renewable energy are coming down. They will also agree with the conclusions on what is holding back further progress: poor coordination and accountability across levels of government, a planning system that serves as a barrier, and the shrugging of shoulders on climate adaptation and resilience.
“The rising cost of living has shown that the UK desperately needs to move away from energy sources that carry a high economic and environmental cost, and go big on renewables and energy efficiency. Engineers have the technical know-how and the ambition to build the low-carbon infrastructure of tomorrow, but policy changes and coordination at all levels of government are needed today.”
WWF’s director of policy solutions Angela Francis said: “We risk sleepwalking into catastrophe if we don’t act now to fix our broken food system, starting with tackling the devastating impact food production is having on climate and nature.
“The last few years have shown how shockingly vulnerable the way we grow, eat and waste food makes us. Families are already feeling the impact of our fragile energy and food systems in their shopping baskets and bills.
“Yet the Government’s own watchdog is calling them out for their piecemeal, unambitious and short-termist approach to tackling the issue in their climate strategy. It’s long past time for ministers, led by Number 10, to future-proof UK food production by accelerating the shift to nature-friendly farming, supporting producers already leading the way, and putting core environmental standards on all UK food imports so that what’s on our plates doesn’t cost the planet.”
The Soil Association’s head of farming policy Gareth Morgan said: “The report’s warning that the UK will not reach net zero by 2050 is alarming but not a surprise. The Committee is right to highlight that progress in reducing farming emissions has been glacial – government urgently needs to wake up to the scale of the challenge. The Committee is also right to challenge the government’s over-reliance on innovation and productivity gains to improve farm sustainability. We should act now to support a rapid shift to climate and nature-friendly farming across the UK, as evidence shows that agroecology can help us create a productive, diverse food system that is resilient in the face of a changing climate. We don’t have time to wait, and we can do this now.
“Despite a weak and disappointing Food White Paper published this month, the commitment to a Rural Land Use Framework is a key opportunity to set a clear direction for how we ensure our farmland is locking in carbon and providing habitats for nature, while also producing good food. But, as the CCC points out today, we must see much more leadership from government on sparking a shift to healthy diets. If we all ate less but better meat alongside more homegrown fruit, vegetables and pulses, we could reduce farming emissions both at home and abroad.”
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, the representative for Brighton Pavilion, said: “This report is an utterly damning indictment of government inaction.
“The CCC rightly points to the yawning gap between words and delivery. In truth, words are cheap. Boris Johnson might claim to be world-beating, but on emissions reduction, he’s climate-cheating: you can’t con your way out of a climate emergency. He claims to be taking action but he’s not delivering – and worse still, he’s actively pursuing policies that will lock us into higher emissions, and losing this unique opportunity for leadership.
“We know that the cheapest, quickest and most effective way to get household bills down and carbon emissions down is a local authority-led, street-by-street home insulation programme. Yet there is a ‘shocking gap’ in Government policy, and a slam dunk failure of a Green Homes Grant scheme, and almost a year later, still nothing in its place.
“We know that we need a joined-up, transformative strategy to achieve a net-zero agriculture sector, to restore our peatlands and nature’s best carbon sinks. Yet progress has been ‘glacial’, and the half-baked Food Strategy shamefully squandered an opportunity for action.
“And we know that we cannot reach net-zero without keeping fossil fuels in the ground. And yet in the past month, this Government has greenlit the Jackdaw gas field in Scotland, a gas development in Surrey, and appears on the cusp of approving a climate-wrecking new coal mine in Cumbria – every project a giant weight dragging us further and further behind.
“We know what needs to be done, and we know how to do it – we just need to make it a reality. But this report shows that just when we need to see real momentum to propel us towards net-zero, the Government can’t even get us past the starting line.”
The UK Corporate Leaders Group’s policy lead Beverley Cornaby said: Today’s report from the CCC shows we need to change gear to accelerate the pace of action which has been stuck in the slow lane far too long. It highlights opportunities for new policy, including supporting energy efficiency in homes. We know the best way to deal with the cost of living crisis is to make any support and response well aligned with the net-zero transition. This is the moment where business and government need to urgently come together in implementing faster and larger-scale actions that help us build a net-zero economy that is prosperous, competitive and fair.”
Good Energy’s chief executive Nigel Pocklington said: “We now have a cost-of-living crisis as well as a climate crisis, and this report makes it abundantly clear that the two should be tackled together.
“It is tempting for us in clean energy to take some credit for the successes acknowledged in renewables and electric vehicle adoption, but we know full well that there is so much more to do, in those areas and elsewhere. One huge piece missing in the climate jigsaw is energy efficiency. It addresses both crises head-on. This Government should stop mulling what headline-friendly titles it can give its policies and start rolling them out with urgency.”
The Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology’s (REA) chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska said: “The latest CCC report is direct in its assessments and we at the REA echo them. There remain large gaps in energy efficiency policy and, while there has been good progress on the decarbonisation of power, it is clear that much more needs to be done on land use, heat and transport too.
“We do acknowledge the Government’s high-level targets, and welcome their continued commitment to the energy transition and net-zero. However, in short, we agree with the CCC – the Government’s current strategies will not deliver net-zero. The targets are there, but the Government now has to get on with delivery.”
The Energy Networks Association’s director of external affairs Ross Easton said: “Today’s announcement from the CCC is a clear sign that despite the progress made so far, there is a long way to go before we hit net-zero and that the focus must remain on the long term. Network companies are a central pillar to enabling net-zero but we will need sufficient certainty and ambition around investment to meet the scale of the challenge ahead.
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee chair Darren Jones MP said: “The CCC’s report on the Government’s progress to net zero is dire, and if not acted upon, will be catastrophic for the country and the planet.
“The report is scathing about the Government’s delivery of its commitments to insulate UK homes; the draughtiest in Europe. Our Committee sounded the alarm on the lack of insulation in British homes, and the lack of any coherent strategy to decarbonise heat in homes at the beginning of the year. A failed scheme to incentivise insulation is yet to be replaced and despite seeking an update we heard no assurances from the Business Secretary in our session on Tuesday that any new scheme would be announced soon and properly funded.
“This report is a warning against complacency and a call to action, and the time to take it is running out.”
The Energy Saving Trust’s head of policy Stew Horne said: ”The conclusions on progress towards improving home energy efficiency are disappointing but not a surprise. This must be a higher priority and significant policy gaps must be addressed to help cut household energy bills and decarbonise our homes. To help this happen, we agree with the report’s call for a comprehensive advice service, providing tailored support to maximise public engagement and uptake of available assistance to make low carbon choices.
“More progress has been made in transport, where it is motivating and rewarding to see that the charging market is maturing as adoption of electric vehicles grows in line with the low carbon transport agenda. It is important that this progress continues.
“The UK has some of the most ambitious climate pledges of any major economy, yet Government needs to show sustained leadership by setting out the detailed delivery plans for how we get to a net-zero future. Energy Saving Trust welcomes the comprehensive, clear actions laid out by the CCC and we urge Government to take note and match its ambition with clear implementation strategies.”
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