In a report launched today (17 January), the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) warns of “significant gaps” between Government proposals and the emissions reductions required to meet future budgets.

Even if delivered in full, existing policies set out in the Clean Growth Strategy miss the fourth and fifth carbon budgets by around 10-MtCO2e, the CCC estimates.

The Committee recommends enhancing current proposals with extra targets to ensure the required reductions are met in time.

“The Clean Growth Strategy is ambitious in its aims to build a thriving low-carbon Britain but ambitions alone are not enough,” CCC Chairman Lord Deben said. “As it standards, the Strategy does not deliver enough action to meet the UK’s emissions targets in the 2020s and 2030s.

“The Government’s policies and proposals will need to be firmed up as a matter of urgency – and supplemented with additional measures – if the UK is to deliver on its legal commitments and secure its position as an international climate change leader.”

Emissions gap

Specifically, the report calls for more detail on plans to improve business energy efficiency by 2030 and household energy efficiency five years later.

The Government is also urged to “firm up” its 2040 pledge to phase out sales of petrol and diesel vehicles, alongside plans to deploy carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology at scale and generate 85% of the UK’s electricity form low-carbon sources by 2032.

But new policies will be required to close the remaining “emissions gap”, the report contends.

The CCC recommends greater short-term improvements in UK building energy efficiency, steps to improve the proportion of heating from heat networks coming from low-carbon sources, and action to ramp up the commercial uptake of low-carbon vehicles.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) director Richard Black agreed on the need to implement new policies quickly, particularly in the areas of low-carbon transport and building.

Black said: “Despite rapid progress on phasing out coal-fired generation, we’re not currently on track to meet emission goals that kick in in just five years’ time. That leaves ministers little time for inquiries and reviews and consultations – they’re going to have to put new policies in place fast,”

“Fortunately, there’s no shortage of good ideas. Three easy wins that I’d highlight would be cutting company car tax for electric vehicles, repealing the ban on onshore wind power which is the cheapest form of electricity generation, and re-booting Zero Carbon Homes. All of those could be done inside six months, if ministers get on with it.”

Clear signals 

BEIS Minister Claire Perry recently dismissed a return for the Zero Carbon Homes standard, which she said would have made “housebuilding too expensive”. She did, however, reveal that the Government is examining ways to support onshore wind in parts of the UK where the technology is popular, such as Scotland and Wales. 

The CCC report calls for “risks” that cannot be removed – such as Hinkley Point C – to be “actively managed”, but others insist the Government should stop “squandering many more billions” on new nuclear plants.

Greenpeace UK chief scientist Dr Doug Parr stressed it was time for Theresa May to give a “clear signal” that Britain is serious about tackling climate change.

“We have heard a lot from Theresa May about plastic waste but not so much about carbon pollution,” Parr said.

“If the Government wants Britain to be a global leader on the environment, that needs to change. Ministers should listen to their climate advisers and move swiftly to boost support for renewable technologies like solar and wind power instead of squandering many more billions on new nuclear plants which may take a decade or more to build.”

George Ogleby

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