Reaction round-up: What does the green economy make of the Committee on Climate Change report?

In the wake of a new Committee on Climate Change (CCC) report, which predicts that the UK will miss its future carbon budgets, the green economy is calling on the Government to take bolder actions to decarbonise the transport, heat and agriculture sectors.

The CCC’s annual progress report to Parliament, published today (June 28),  marks the 10-year anniversary of the Climate Change Act that commits the UK Government by law to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels by 2050.

The new report by the CCC accused ministers of failing to set strong enough policies across transport, heat, agriculture and in the built environment sector, despite strong overall progress in the shift towards renewable power. 

It warns that weak policies regarding energy efficiency, green transport and clean heat will “leave young people to pick up the bill for climate change” if politicians continue to “dodge” climate change issues by spurning low-cost options, such as onshore windfarmshome insulation and tree-planting.

The CCC’s chair Lord Deben claimed the homebuilding and carmaking industries “should be ashamed” of their efforts to tackle global warming. In response, a host of organisations across the green economy have reacted, noting ways that policy can accelerate progress and create the framework to meet future carbon budgets. Here, edie rounds up some of the key recommendations.

Set zero carbon targets for buildings

The report cites the built environment sector, specifically the homebuilding sector, as a climate change laggard in the wake of the Government’s decisions to cancel plans to make new houses zero carbon and to axe home insulation incentives. These moves created a 95% drop in insulation installations since 2012, the CCC claims.

Reacting to these findings, the UK Green Building Council (UK GBC) today reaffirmed its commitment to urge ministers to “set out a pathway” to ensure all new buildings are “genuinely net-zero carbon” by 2030.

UKGBC’s chief executive Julie Hirigoyen said the move, coupled with energy efficiency incentives for homeowners and businesses, would prove “the most cost-effective way of tackling climate change”, citing recent findings from the UN claiming that buildings account for 40% of global energy consumption and a third of the planet’s carbon emissions.

“The CCC highlights how clear goals and well-designed policies have delivered huge emissions reductions in the power sector,” Hirigoyen said.

“The Government must now demonstrate equal determination to drive down emissions from buildings. Clear and consistent policy will not just be good for the environment – it will spur much-needed investment and innovation in the construction and property industry.”

Reverse solar tariffs

The CCC notes in the report that Ministers are leaving several “cost-effective potential solutions” on the sidelines, citing solar power as a key area where potential had been left “unrealised” after a string of subsidy cuts.

While strong progress has been made in the power sector, which has cut emissions by 43% since 1990, the report claims there “has been minimal progress in bringing forward cheap mature renewables”, such as solar.

To remedy this issue, the Solar Trade Association (STA) is advocating in favour of Government policies which would provide access to long-term contracts for the development of subsidy-free solar farms, and which would reverse solar tariffs.

“There is no justification for holding back solar in the UK,” said STA’s chief executive Chris Hewett said, adding that a failure to remove “self-defeating barriers” to solar adoption would “leave the UK falling even further on behind in what is already the biggest clean energy market in the world”.

“Not only is solar the British public’s favourite energy technology, rooftop solar doesn’t even need any public subsidy,” he concluded. “All it needs is for Government to reverse recent nonsensical taxes and to urgently clarify the policy framework for local renewables going forwards.”

Go all-in on onshore wind

Similarly, the CCC accuses the Government in the report of failing to “act in consumer interest” by discontinuing subsidies in the onshore wind sector, which it describes as a “low-cost, low-risk option”.

Shadow energy minister Alan Whitehead previously said the subsidy cuts were “spooking investors”, contributing to a 56% decline in renewable energy investment last year.

Similarly, RenewableUK’s executive director, Emma Pinchbeck, said that refusing to give “hard-press bill payers” cheap and green electricity from onshore wind farms “makes no sense”.

“Denying new projects the chance to compete against other technologies on a level playing field is out of step with the public opinion; the Government’s most recent opinion polls show an all-time high of 76% of people support onshore wind,” Pinchbeck concluded.

Give certainties to businesses

Since the start of the year, swathes of big-name businesses in the UK have committed to source renewable power, reduce their carbon footprint and minimise their environmental impact.

With the onus now on companies to help the UK meet its legally-binding carbon budget targets, several green economy leaders are calling on Ministers to do more to guarantee boardroom buy-in for climate change action within the business sphere.

The Energy and Climate Change Intelligence Unit’s director, Richard Black, said that “consistent policymaking, which provides certainty to business” was one of the key things that makes the Climate Change Act a success, and called for “more of the same, and quickly”.

“The Committee’s report is remarkably explicit in advising reliance on simple, proven, low-cost options, including cutting energy waste and re-booting onshore wind power, while also tackling sectors such as transport where emissions are not coming down,” he added.

Build infrastructure to support the EV revolution

The CCC found that emissions from transport had increased 4% year-on-year, as consumers purchased larger vehicles, despite top car makers including VWBMWRenault and Volvo all moving to ramp up investment into electric vehicle (EV) production and battery research and innovation.

In the wake of these findings, and with research repeatedly concluding that slow infrastructure investment may hamper EV adoption in the UK, calls are now being made for the Government to do more to support the transition away from petrol and diesel ahead of its 2040 ban.

“Building a viable charging network is crucial to encouraging EV uptake and, in turn, to achieving our Industrial Strategy goals of being a global leader in battery manufacturing,” the REA’s head of policy and external affairs, James Court, said.

“This means upgrading wiring in new homes, giving tenants greater power to install charge points, and expediting the process of developing charging hubs along the motorway.”

In the short-term, Court suggested that ministers should encourage the adoption of E10, a blend of petrol with 10% renewable content.

Clear up contradictory decisions

The CCC’s findings on transport and renewables come just days after MPs voted in favour of a third runway at Heathrow Airport, and in the same month that the Government confirmed it would not back plans for Swansea’s pioneering tidal lagoon power plant.

The decisions, which have both come under harsh criticism from NGOs, campaigners and sustainability professionals, have been interpreted as hypocritical by some, with Friends of the Earth (FoTE) arguing that they evidence the Government’s “dangerously inadequate approach to tackling climate change”.

 “The CCC is clear that urgent action is not only essential, but also low-cost,” FoTE’s climate campaigner Oliver Hayes, said.

“Delaying action will increase the human and financial costs for everyone. There are huge opportunities here, but the government is dropping the ball.”

Sarah George

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