The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has warned of delayed progress to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050 in line with the Climate Change Act, with reductions largely confined to the power sector, and emissions rising in the transport and build sectors. Meanwhile, attempts to improve the state of the natural environment continue to worsen or have stalled in many areas, the CCC said.

In its latest annual report, the body said that the new Government should produce two plans “as a matter of urgency”: one to reduce the UK’s emissions and a second to improve resilience to the risks from climate change.

CCC Chairman Lord Deben said: “The impact of climate change on our lives and those of our children is clearer than ever. The UK has shown global leadership on climate change, but progress will stall at home without urgent further action.

“New plans, for a new Parliament, are needed as a matter of urgency to meet our legal commitments, grasp the opportunities offered by the global low-carbon transition, and protect people, businesses and the environment from the impacts of a changing climate.”

‘No longer justified or wise’

Legislation requires the Government to put forward a plan for meeting the fifth carbon budget “as soon as is reasonable practicable”. But almost exactly a year on after the budget was set, the Government’s long-awaited Clean Growth Plan has suffered a series of delays as Ministers grapple with the complexities of Brexit.

Many existing policies to reduce emissions such, as the Levy Control Framework (LCF) and Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), are set to expire. The CCC insists that parliament must now be informed about how the agreed targets will be met.

The new Climate Change Minister Claire Whitely confirmed earlier this week that the Clean Growth Plan would not be published until at least early September. But the CCC warns that “it is no longer justified or wise” to delay publication.

The CCC advises that the plan should focus on the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) and provide strategies for carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, energy efficiency and low-carbon heat. The latter has long been viewed as a problem area of green policy, with the UK less than half way to meeting its heat targets. 

The report also calls for a strengthened National Adaptation Programme (NAP) – a scheme which drives action to prepare for climate change impacts. The NAP should address areas such as flood risks to homes and businesses, and risks to the natural environment, according to the CCC.

‘Serious red flag’

In response to the report findings, green groups have warned that the UK risks significantly damaging its global reputation as a climate leader if the CCC’s recommendations are not followed.

“Unless ministers get on with setting new decarbonisation policies for the power sector, heating and transport, progress will stall and the UK will lose its leadership position,” Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) director Richard Black said.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) climate campaigner Simon Bullock said the report was the “starkest warning yet” from the CCC that the UK Government must “up its game”, while WWF head of climate and energy Gareth Redmond King said it raises a “very serious red flag” that action on climate change risks being “derailed” by a lack of Ministerial action.

“We need UK Government commitment to support and grow low-carbon industries and solutions – particularly in the building and transport sectors where emissions are rising, not falling, and we need this quickly,” Redmond King said.

George Ogleby

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