‘Government must act now’: Green economy reacts to the CCC’s net-zero report

Organisations were unanimously in favour of the recommendations outlined in the report

There has been a welcome response from numerous groups to the CCC’s report with the top line call for the immediate enshrining into law of a national net zero by 2050 target to be put forward by the government.

The CCC recommends that a 100% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions should be legislated “as soon as possible”. Such a target would constitute the UK’s “highest possible ambition” to combatting climate change and would “send a much stronger signal internationally”. And crucially, this net-zero target could be achieved at the same cost that is currently put against achieving the current Climate Change Act, which is between 1-2% of GDP in 2050.

However, the report does also note that some home nations are currently better equipped to deliver more rapid decarbonisation than others. Scotland, for example, is encouraged by the CCC to target net-zero emissions by 2045 – due to a greater potential to depollute its economy compared to the rest of the UK – whereas Wales should target a 95% reduction in emissions by 2050 (from the same 1990 baseline).


Groups of politicians, industry bodies, pressure groups, associations and consultancies across the sustainability sector have heaped praise on the CCC’s recommendations and presented their own specific areas where they would like the sustainability focus to be developed.

Chair of the BEIS Committee chair Rachel Reeves said:

“We are facing a climate change emergency and I welcome the Committee on Climate Change’s report which sets out a compelling case for the UK to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. Achieving this target will not be without its challenges, but it is vital that Government commits to net-zero and brings forward the policies needed for the UK to deliver it and capitalise on the future industrial opportunities offered by pursuing clean growth.

“We are currently not on target to meet the UK’s fourth and fifth carbon budgets, let alone achieve net zero so the stark reality is that the UK Government has a lot to do to help deliver a better planet for our children. On onshore wind, on electric vehicles, on carbon capture and storage, and on a range of other transport and energy areas such as energy efficiency, the Government needs to up its game and come forward with the policies, actions, and regulations needed to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

“As a Committee, we will over the coming weeks be examining how to implement the 2050 target and holding the UK Government to account for its response to this challenge”.

The Conservative Environment Network’s Simon Clarke MP said:

 “It shows that we need a clear suite of policies to help us to reach this goal, from bringing back onshore wind to supporting new technologies like carbon capture in my constituency.”

Zac Goldsmith MP, who resigned as a Conservative MP in 2016 over the government’s backing for Heathrow expansion, said:

“The science is clear that if we reach two degrees warming we will devastate our wildlife, losing nearly all of our coral reefs and other vital habitats. If we are to save our natural world we must reach net zero by 2050, and enshrining that into law is the first step.”

The WWF’s head of climate change Gareth Redmond-King said:

“The climate emergency is here, and yet we are acting as if we have time to waste.  Politicians will say that they are committed to tackling climate change. But how can they be taken seriously if they press ahead with expanding airports?  Aviation is the fastest growing source of emissions worldwide yet only 5% of people in the world have ever flown.”

“We know the UK can do this by 2045 now. And if renewables and other clean technology develop more quickly, it may be possible to go even faster. This future will become reality only if our leaders start walking the talk, making hard choices today in areas like aviation, transport and housing that put the planet, and future generations, first.”

Greenpeace’s executive director of Greenpeace UK John Sauven said:

 “The committee has spelt out that if we want to maintain our credibility and any leadership on climate then the government can no longer faff around with promises and half measures. It needs to have plausible, deliverable plans.

“We might argue over the committee’s 2050 date for a net zero carbon economy but what nobody can argue is that the government’s business as usual, steady-as-she-goes approach will suffice.

“We need to radically change course, and the sooner the better for the economy, people, and the rest of nature.”

The Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE)’s director Dr Tim Rotheray said:

 “UK policy making now needs to match the ambitions of the CCC’s rallying call for decarbonisation. Recent progress needs to be accelerated to achieve this ambition. The structural change required in businesses, embedding carbon and environment into the heart of business planning, is just as vital in government. Cutting emissions will impact everyone’s lives. This needs public support and that can only be achieved if customers see the benefits. That is why zero carbon policies must be at the heart of every single Government department.”

The National Trust’s outdoors and natural resources director Patrick Begg said:

 “The Government must now act without delay to adopt a net zero target so we can get on with the task of limiting climate change by making farming more sustainable for both farmers and for nature, and by locking away more carbon through the restoration of important habitats.”

The RSPB’s director of conservation Martin Harper said:

“Protecting and restoring our woodlands, bogs and grasslands to help lock up carbon is essential in the fight to prevent the worst effects. Today’s CCC report highlights the valuable role nature can play in addressing the climate crisis alongside the urgent need to raise our ambition across every sector if we are to be successful.”

The Woodland Trust’s CEO Beccy Speight:

“Woods, trees and their associated wildlife and the landscapes in which they sit, are being impacted by climate change in a multitude of ways. Let’s make no mistake, trees and expanded woodland cover are a huge part of the solution, as iterated in the CCC report. To make an impact, new woodland creation and regeneration will need to happen faster and on a far greater scale than ever before and be sustained over several decades.”

The Climate Coalition’s campaign director Clara Goldsmith said:

“We strongly support the 1.5C compliant pathway, recognition of the huge level of our historic emissions, the inclusion of all greenhouse gases, and the recommendations to reject international off-setting and include aviation and shipping emissions. But we know that we can go faster and further. We call on the Government to set in legislation a world-leading target for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 and put in place the ambitious policies and investment to back it up. This would put the UK in pole position to lead the global zero carbon revolution.”

The Nature Friendly Farming Network’s chair Martin Lines:

“Last year’s heatwave, made thirty times more likely by climate change, was a reminder to all farmers that we are on the frontline of climate change. But we can be a big part of the solution. Farmers right across the country are already finding ways to cut the emissions, be that through altering the way we feed our livestock, to better managing our soils to keep them healthy. For the sake of British farming and our food production, we have to halt climate change, and that means setting and hitting a net zero target as soon as possible.”

The Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA)’s chief executive Luke Warren:

“The Government’s current plan to develop one CCUS facility by 2025, with an option to deploy at scale in the 2030s, is not consistent with this ambition. We, therefore, look forward to working with the Government as it responds to this challenge, by cementing CCUS as an essential pillar of its net-zero strategy.”

Chair of the Energy Transitions Commission and former chair of the CCC Lord Adair said:

“Since the Climate Change Act was passed in 2008, the science evidencing man-made climate change has become ever clearer – and the costs of tackling the problem have also dropped dramatically. For example, we have seen huge falls in the costs of wind, solar and batteries – 65% for wind, 80% for solar and batteries. This means that it is possible to adopt a net zero target, without a significant increase in the cost.”

“The Energy Transitions Commission, which I chair, has also shown that we can get to net zero in harder to decarbonise sectors such as heavy industry, aviation and shipping by 2050, and that the total impact on living standards would be negligible. And although the transition may appear daunting for some areas, such as home heating, the shift away from town gas in the 60s and 70s, is proof that, handled well, these transitions can be both possible and desirable for homeowners.

“But we must also be clear that zero should mean zero; that is zero within the UK, not zero by buying carbon offsets from other countries. With the right policies, the evidence clearly shows that it is possible to really drive decarbonisation in all sectors of the economy.”

Former leader of the Conservative Party Lord Howard said:

“Britain has a history of action on climate change of which it can be proud. From the Rio Earth Summit to the Climate Change Act, we have always been a leader on facing this challenge,” he said.

“Now the science is clear that we must go further, and adopt a net zero emissions target by 2050, if not earlier. We must not shirk from this challenge, nor should we be afraid of it.

“Pragmatic policies introduced by past governments have shown, as in the case with offshore wind, that costs can quickly be driven down and thriving new industries grown. At this time in our nation’s history, we should embrace this opportunity to lead in the low-carbon industries of the future.”

Co-Director of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College Professor Joanna Haigh said:

“Science is clear that stopping climate change means bringing emissions to net zero. And the case for doing that quickly enough to constrain global warming to 1.5ºC was graphically highlighted by last year’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which showed that every half degree of additional warming has a serious and measurable impact.”

“The Committee on Climate Change shows how the UK can meet the IPCC ambition. We can cut our emissions to net zero, the costs are manageable, and, in many ways, from lower air pollution to restored natural environments, the world will be a better place to live in when we do so.”

Lord Puttnam, who helped guide the Climate Change Act through the Parliament, said:

“When I helped steer the Climate Change Act through the Parliament over ten years ago, I was privileged to see British politics at its very best.”

“At a time of seemingly intractable political division, it is worth remembering that then, as now, our politicians are united across the political divide on the issue of climate change, with nearly 200 members of the Commons already calling for a net zero target to be put into law.

“Long may this continue; for, although issues like Brexit will pass, the awesome challenge of addressing climate change will be one that faces us and future generations for decades to come. Setting a net zero target in law is merely the next step on this long road: we should take it, and quickly.”

Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit director Richard Black said:

“This is a seminally important report from the Committee, confirming that the UK can become the first major economy in the world to deliver on the Paris Agreement and can do so painlessly,” he said.

“Getting to net zero means making changes across the economy but importantly, nothing looks particularly disruptive. The Committee is talking about accelerating the ongoing move to clean energy and transport, continuing the modest changes we’re seeing in meat-eating and restoring forests and peatlands – and an overall economic impact that could end up being nil once hidden benefits such as cleaner air are taken into account.

“Equally important is that, while the Committee has been deliberating, the voices of businesses, MPs, farmers and the public have been supportive of a net zero transition. So now the ball is at the feet of ministers – and the Committee suggests there’s everything to gain from acting swiftly and decisively.”

The Climate Group’s chief executive Helen Clarkson said:

“The UK Government must follow the advice of the UK Committee on Climate Change with urgency. Their message is clear – we have the solutions to tackle climate change, what’s needed now is political will.

“The UK’s track record of climate leadership is strong. Today’s report from the UKCCC presents an opportunity for the continuation of this leadership, in the hope that it will inspire others to act, protect our planet and ensure greater prosperity for all.  We know that business as usual is not enough. For other businesses in the UK and globally to follow suit, we need unwavering political leadership from the UK government, clear policy measures, and above all, certainty.”

The Renewable Energy Association’s chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska said:

“This report blazes a trail for the UK to assert itself as a leader in socially responsible new industries and the Government should grab it with both hands. We strongly support the view of the Committee that the solution to net zero greenhouse gasses by 2050 lies in the mass deployment of renewable technologies supported by robust, long-term and investible policies.

“Since the 80% reduction target was set, renewables have continuously surpassed expectations technically and financially and this is reflected in the CCC’s recommendations. Governmental support schemes such as the Feed-in Tariff have helped technologies such as solar PV and wind become inexpensive and straightforward to build. We hope that the response from Government in the coming months fully embraces the ambition and the opportunity presented today.”

ClientEarth’s climate accountability lawyer Jonathan Church:

“Greta Thunberg highlighted last week that the boring business of how we count our emissions is key. This month brings the risk that government could undermine all our carbon targets – net-zero or otherwise – by keeping a vast amount of “hot air” in the Climate Change Act and making a mockery of any commitment to keep to a cost-effective path for cutting carbon to 2050.

“At a time when the urgency of climate change could not be starker, this report sets out a bold and optimistic future for the UK to be climate neutral by 2050. It is possible and the case is clear: we need to reach net zero emissions within 30 years. Aviation emissions must not be exempt. And we should reach our target through domestic effort.”

Green Alliance’s policy director Dustin Benton said:

“The report is a recipe for climate optimism: it shows, in meticulous detail and with Treasury-proof economics, that the UK’s contribution to climate change can end by 2050, at no extra cost. Why? Because innovation and industrial strategy made clean power cheap. If the UK can innovate in transport, buildings, industry and farming as we have in power, we could go even faster.

“This means acting on net-zero now. It is urgent, but urgency does not mean difficulty. Getting on track takes just five big actions: a ban on new petrol and diesel vehicle sales by 2030; natural climate solutions to restore nature and create new forests; an extra £1bn per year to retrofit UK buildings; an industrial resource efficiency programme; and a return to onshore wind and solar power. These actions would futureproof the economy and secure the clean jobs essential to a just transition.”

The Offshore Wind Industry Council’s chairman and Ørsted UK’s country manager for offshore, Benj Sykes, said:

“The ground-breaking Offshore Wind Sector Deal means at least one-third of the UK’s electricity will come from offshore wind by 2030. But today’s report says that if the UK is to achieve a net-zero carbon economy, we can go much further.

“The Committee on Climate Change is suggesting a tenfold increase in offshore wind capacity by 2050. This is a clear signal to industry and Government to aim high when it comes to our renewable energy supply. 

“Employment in our sector is set to more than double by 2030. Even more ambitious targets will bring more investment in communities and our supply chain across the country. The industry will work closely with Government to deliver on net-zero and strengthen the UK’s global lead in offshore wind.”

Christian Aid’s UK head of advocacy Tom Viita said: 

“Most of the people facing droughts, floods and rising sea levels, have not caused this climate emergency. What they need now is much more radical action from countries like the UK. 

“MPs from all parties and the Government itself need to turn this declaration of climate emergency from warm words into tangible actions including a massive scale-up of public investment, both in the UK and overseas, to cut greenhouse gas emissions.As an immediate first step, Parliament should demand that the Government set a new greenhouse gas target for net-zero emissions by 2045 at the latest and bring forward new money and policies to deliver it.”

Business in the Community’s environment director Gudrun Cartwright said: 

“While the target date is 2050, it is vital to remember that this is the absolute limit.  Each year that we stall makes it less likely we will get there. The suggestions of yearly reductions in carbon emissions imply a slow, steady, path.  The reality is that we will only achieve the end goal through spending the little that is left of our carbon budget on putting in place the infrastructure and systems we need to live well in a zero-carbon world. 

“The findings from our Responsible Business Tracker, released this week, show that businesses do not yet fully comprehend the existential threat that the dual challenges of climate change and environmental degradation present to business models, communities that we live in and our own hopes for an enjoyable retirement and watching our children and grandchildren flourish.     

“Businesses must now lead the way by using the opportunities given by this emergency to create new products and services, change systems and processes, inspire and engage new talent and find new markets and customers through showing they are part of the solution, not adding to the problem.”

James Evison


Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie