Prime Minister Boris Johnson to chair Government climate change sub-committee

Image: Wikipedia/Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Johnson will steer the new internal committee, which has been established as part of the Government’s response to the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) annual progress report, according to the BBC.

The aims of the sub-committee are to establish governance and enforcement mechanisms that accelerate cross-government efforts to deliver the legally binding net-zero target that is set for 2050.

The timing of Johnson’s appointment follows his criticism of the Extinction Rebellion protests last week, where he branded climate change protestors “uncooperative crusties”.

CCC recommendations 

The CCC’s report, issued in July, found that only one of 25 headline clean growth policy actions had been delivered through government efforts, and that the UK will struggle to meet its future carbon budgets.

The Government formally issued its response to the CCC’s report on Tuesday (15 October). The response paper states that the Government is aligned with the majority of the CCC’s recommendations.

It claims that the UK Government has allocated £2bn to decarbonisation projects since the amendment to the 2008 Climate Change Act was ratified, with much funding being allocated across the fields of hydrogen, carbon capture and green finance.

The CCC had previously criticised the Government’s response to decarbonising two of the UK’s most carbon-intensive transport sub-sectors, international shipping and aviation, and road transport by passenger car.

The response confirms that the Government will develop a plan to decarbonise “every single mode of transport”. It states that the Department for Transport (DfT) will “immediately” begin the groundwork for the plan ahead of its publication next year – a task which will require much collaboration with local authorities, businesses and trade bodies.

More information on implementation plans from the Government to reach net-zero can be read here.

Budget breach

The UK is set to breach its fourth and fifth carbon budgets by 139 and 245 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) respectively, according to the latest forecast from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The cabinet has defied the CCC by carrying forward emission reductions, which have already taken place, into its future carbon budgets. Around 88 megatonnes (million tonnes) of emissions from the 2013 to 2017 carbon budget could be carried forward to give the UK more leeway in meeting future targets.

Friends of the Earth chief executive, Craig Bennett said: “With the planet facing a climate emergency, we need urgent action not just warm words. The Prime Minister’s pledge to make the UK a global leader on the climate crisis will only be realised if slashing climate-wrecking emissions is at the very heart of every government policy.

“This means scrapping plans for a third runway at Heathrow, halting the multi-billion pound road-building programme and abandoning support for fossil fuel development at home and abroad. The solutions for building a carbon-free future already exist – but has Boris Johnson got the political will to make it happen?”

In May 2019, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) launched an enquiry into the UK Government’s existing “Greening Government Commitments (GGCs)”, which set out the sweeping range of internal sustainability targets currently in place for all departments and agencies.

Published in 2016 and running through to 2020, the GGCs cover the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, waste footprints and water consumption of all departments and agencies.

Against a 2009-10 baseline, they commit the Government to reducing GHG emissions from its buildings and domestic business transport by 32%; achieving a landfill rate of less than 10% of all waste; halving paper consumption and cutting the number of domestic business flights taken by 30% by the end of the 2019-20 financial year. 

Dr Nina Skorupska CBE, Chief Executive at the REA said: “The CCC were right to highlight the inefficiency of the current disjointed approach, achieving our legally binding carbon targets cannot and should not be the sole responsibility of a handful of departments across the Government.

Responsibility and accountability for implementing the policies and infrastructure urgently needed to address the climate emergency must sit at the top, with No 10 and the Cabinet Office. The Government must treat this as an emergency and must oversee the delivery. Andrea Leadsom and the Government must follow through on this proposal or risk missing not only the fourth and fifth carbon budgets but our net-zero target.”

Matt Mace

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