CCC urges UK Government to close green policy gaps following COP27

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) is calling on the UK Government to “decide what its priorities are” for future UN climate meetings, following COP27. Ministers are also being asked to close domestic policy gaps on cutting emissions and adapting to the changing climate.

CCC urges UK Government to close green policy gaps following COP27

Image: CCC

The CCC, the Government’s independent advisory body on climate matters, has this week published its summary of key outcomes from the COP27 summit in Egypt last month. The document also provides a string of recommendations for the UK Government, regarding its approach to both international climate diplomacy and domestic policymaking that can serve as an example to other nations.

On the latter, the CCC’s most recent annual progress report to Parliament on the delivery of net-zero this summer stated that “scant progress” had been made in many high-emission sectors including buildings and agriculture. It warned that the Government would need to develop stronger sector-specific emissions targets and provide more detail on raising the level of investment to reach targets in full – not just in part.

This new summary of COP27 reiterates these points. It highlights that the Government has until March 2023 to update the Net-Zero Strategy to make it ‘lawful’, and recommends that Whitehall sets out sector-specific emissions targets and initiatives to deliver the necessary emissions cuts this decade.

The UK Government is also called upon to detail how it will meet its Global Methane Pledge commitment. Spearheaded by the US and EU, the Pledge involves reducing methane emissions by 30% by 2030. Energy production and agriculture (predominantly livestock and rice) are the two biggest global sources of methane.

Moreover, the summary questions whether Ministers have heard the CCC’s advice on reducing demand for fossil fuels and ensuring that production is aligned with net-zero by 2050. It reiterates previous recommendations for the UK to improve energy efficiency, increase the share of renewables in the energy mix and electrify transport, heating and industrial processes. It also emphasizes that, while the UK is forging ahead with a major new oil and gas licencing round, the CCC’s own analysis has led it to caution against expansion.

The COP27 cover text did not agree on language to phase out fossil fuels, but the momentum generated from the proposal could be a driving force… at COP28,” the CCC states. “The UK should continue to leverage its COP26 Presidency legacy and experience in rapidly reducing coal use to support and encourage the energy transition across the world.”

Negotiators at COP27 did not reach a final agreement until the early hours of the second Sunday, making the summit the second-longest to date. A key sticking point was language around fossil fuels. Some nations including India wanted strong language on coal to be extended to oil and gas. Oil and gas exporters pushed back, asking for a ‘phase down’ rather than a ‘phase out’, and for technologies like carbon capture to be mentioned as potential alternatives to renewables.

Adaptation is covered as well as mitigation. The CCC notes that the UK is due to publish a new National Adaptation Programme in 2023 and urges those designing the framework to heed its warnings that risks are increasing in likelihood and potential severity, leaving critical infrastructure at risk.

Net-zero credibility

Another topic covered in the CCC’s summary is improving the credibility of net-zero commitments from non-state actors such as cities and businesses.

This was a hot topic at COP27. The High-Level Expert Group on Net Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities used the event to publish a new set of recommendations on setting short, mid and long-term commitments. These include prioritising deep emissions reductions, in line with science, over offsetting, and ensuring that any offsets which are used are robust.

Also at COP27, the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) published a net-zero ‘Guidelines’ paper. The paper is intended to be a “single core reference text” for any organisation wishing to credibly use terminology relating to net-zero emissions and create meaningful targets.

The CCC states in its new publication that the UK is “particularly well placed to champion” measures to ensure that net-zero commitments have integrity and that non-state actors need to report transparently on guidance. It recommends that the UK feeds in to efforts to create a global standard for net-zero transition plans for corporates, and in to efforts to improve carbon markets.

Climate finance  

Lastly, the CCC comes on to climate finance. This was another major topic of discussion in Egypt, with wealthy nations confirming that they will once again fall short of a commitment to provide $100bn annually to the low-income countries facing the worst climate impacts. This commitment was first floated in 2009.

Developed nations agreed to meet the goal in 2023 and to work to deliver a new goal in 2024. There was also agreement on changing the ways that multilateral development banks (MDBs) operate to better unlock climate finance for developing nations.

The UK, the CCC states, “is a leading financial hub and a major donor to MDBs”, meaning that it “is in a strong position to influence the shape of discussions on the mobilization of finance.”

COP28 will take place in Dubai in December 2023.

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