CCC: Policy gaps leaving business unable to manage climate risks

The CCC has highlighted particular challenges in the agriculture

That is a key conclusion of the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC)latest progress report to Parliament, which assesses emissions reductions across the UK and climate adaptation progress in England.

Published today (10 July), the two-part report warns that both business and Government have been slow in “showing they are serious” about tackling and preparing for climate change over the past year, noting that Ministers have delivered just one of the 25 environmental policies it flagged as “critical” in its 2018 report.

It praises Prime Minister Theresa May for delivering that one policy – namely legislating for total decarbonisation of the UK economy by 2050 – but adds that whether the UK Government’s commitment to this deadline is viewed as “credible” on an international stage rests on policy action over the coming 18 months.

The CCC specifically notes that while the net-zero target shows ambition on a global scale, the UK’s domestic policies to date have left it off course to meet the Climate Change Agreement 2008’s original 2050 target of an 80% reduction in emissions, against a 1990 baseline.

In order to bring domestic progress back on track for an 80% reduction and bolter policy and business action towards net-zero, the CCC is urging the Government to place business and the general public at the heart of its framework for complete decarbonisation. It notes that without a “simple and investable” set of laws, the private sector’s shift to low-carbon technologies is likely to be inefficient, adding that Ministers are likely to risk a backlash if low-carbon policies, products and services aren’t designed around the needs of the public.

The CCC is additionally using its report as a call to action for the UK’s next Prime Minister, arguing that they must work closely with the First Ministers of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to ensure “embedded” and joined-up progress.

 “International ambition does not deliver domestic action,” CCC chairman Lord Deben said.

“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.”

Adaptation, adaptation, adaptation

While the first half of the CCC’s report focuces on the ways in which UK policy can help mitigate the nation’s climate impacts, the second hones in on ways in which the nation can prepare for “unavoidable” changes.

It states that existing policies are currently “inefficient” across nature conservation and restoration, health and wellbeing and the private sector, but claims that policy changes over the next 12 months could be sufficient to safeguard communities from impacts such as flooding and overheating.

Recommended policy changes include a review of Building Regulations to account for overheating; the implementation of a time-bound national water consumption reduction target  and the launch of the Environment Agency’s proposed Flood Strategy in full.

A further key request is for the upcoming Agriculture Bill to introduce a system whereby farmers are paid extra for working to conserve or restore nature after Brexit. Such a move, the CCC claims, could help conserve soil, protect endangered habitats and manage flood risks without the need for costly and high-carbon physical infrastructure. The Welsh Government has notably already put forward proposals on financial incentives for sustainable and regenerative farming. 

The final recommendation detailed in the latter half of the CCC’s report is for all businesses to be made subject to mandatory disclosures on climate-related financial risks. At present, reporting such information is required by an ever-growing cohort of investors, but is not a legal requirement.

This recommendation comes just days after the UK’s Minister of State for International Development Harriet Baldwin spoke out against legislating for mandatory climate-related financial disclosures from UK-based corporates at The Economist’s Climate Risk Summit in London.  

Baldwin argued that “significant progress” on disclosure had already been made through voluntary platforms. On the contrary, the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) claimed in its latest Status Report that companies aren’t providing enough information to inform the investor community on a voluntary basis.

Sarah George

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