Stop approving carbon budgets without credible delivery plans, MPs urge UK Government

MPs are imploring the UK Government to rethink its process for approving legally binding carbon budgets, implementing changes to ensure that Ministers have appropriate delivery plans that have been scrutinisied in Parliament.

Stop approving carbon budgets without credible delivery plans, MPs urge UK Government

The cross-party Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) of MPs has written to Energy Security and Net-Zero Secretary Claire Coutinho suggesting a string of changes to the carbon budget implementation programme.

This letter has been prompted by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s claims that the UK has “over-delivered” on its previous carbon budget commitments, and can therefore afford to persue a more incremental decarbonisation pathway going forward. This rhetoric was repeated in a Government press release just today (6 February).

Official advisors at the Climate Change Committee (CCC) have advised against this approach and warned that the delivery of the next two carbon budgets – the fifth and the sixth –  is at risk.

Under the current carbon budget approval process, the CCC presents recommendations and Ministers decide whether to make any changes. They must then legislate for the targets before presenting a delivery plan to Parliament.

MPs on the EAC would like to see this process changed before the seventh carbon budget is agreed. The letter to Coutinho notes Sunak’s own talk of the need for wider Parliamentary understanding of – and input into – key policies supporting the net-zero transition.

EAC chair Philip Dunne, Conservative MP for Ludlow, said: “In his September 2023 speech on net-zero, the Prime Minister made the fair point that opportunities for Parliamentary scrutiny of proposals to deliver previous Carbon Budgets had been very limited.

“This ought to change. Retrospective scrutiny once the Carbon Budget and the delivery plan are official policy puts us all on the back foot.

“MPs should have the opportunity to scrutinise robustly the policy proposals put forward to meet the Government’s climate goals, and to examine whether the level the Carbon Budget has been set at is achievable while maintaining public support for decarbonisation.”

Stunted delivery

The EAC’s letter notes that the UK Government’s initial Net-Zero Strategy, drawn up to support the sixth carbon budget that was approved in 2021, was ruled unlawful by the High Court following a challenge led by environmental campaigners and lawyers.

An update, issued last year, now faces a fresh legal challenge with a court date to be announced shortly. Opponents of the Strategy in both of its guises have pointed to a lack of time-bound, sector-specific decarbonisation targets, plus insufficient policies to deliver key goals.

The CCC has stated that policies are “completely missing” or “currently inadequate” for 18% of the required emissions reductions under the sixth carbon budget. Plans are also incomplete or prone to risk for a further 30% of the necessary emissions cuts.

Looking at the public support piece, a recent Deloitte survey found that less than one-quarter of Brits are confident that the UK will meet its 2050 net-zero target.

Almost half of respondents (45%) cited a switch away from fossil fuels as the biggest change the Government could make, with many citing confusion over the Government’s support for North Sea Oil and Gas expansion plus a new coal mine in Cumbria. Respondents also raised concerns over loopholes in the Government’s promotion of clean transport.

Comments (1)

  1. Colin Matthews says:

    The first 50% reduction has been easy to deliver by changing from a coal/oil to gas heating regime, getting rid of polluting heavy energy consumption industry and improving fuel consumption on vehicles. The second 50% will cost considerably more to achieve and in a year with elections the government will not want to spend money that can be used for tax cuts….

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