UK set to breach fifth carbon budget, despite setting net-zero goal

The analysis forecasts inadequate emissions reductions across sectors including energy

Carried out by Green Alliance, the analysis reveals that the UK is currently set to emit at least 313Mt of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) more than its fifth carbon budget allows, within the budget timeline of 2028 and 2032.

These forecasts are based on existing policy supports for decarbonising carbon-intense, hard-to-abate sectors such as transport, heat, the built environment and agriculture.

Green Alliance has also factored in central Government funding plans, given that it has previously placed the cost of spurring net-zero progress to central Government at £42bn per year between 2020 and 2023. The think tank outlines how central Government’s current plans only cover £16.75bn of annual funding within this timeframe.

In order to get the UK back on track, Green Alliance is calling for new policies on road transport, energy efficiency in homes, renewable energy, the circular economy and nature restoration to be implemented ahead of COP26.

On road transport, the organisation claims that bringing the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars forward from 2040 to 2030 would mitigate 98 MtCO2e emissions by 2032. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to move the deadline to 2035 this week, following pressure from external green groups and its own Committee on Climate Change (CCC).

Green Alliance is also calling for a further £1bn annual funding from central Government to make homes more energy efficient; better incentives for manufacturers to use resource-efficient design and to support product repair and reuse; the planting of 27,000 trees annually; the restoration of peatlands and wetlands; and changes to policy for onshore wind and solar. Onshore wind developments have slowed since the generation method was excluded from Contracts for Difference (CfD) process, while the solar sector has faced a swathe of cuts to incentives since 2015.

As and when green policies are altered, Green Alliance will update its forecasts and publish the results in real-time in the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow in November. The aim of this exercise is not only to apply pressure to Conservative Ministers, who continue to state that the UK is “world-leading” in regards to decarbonisation, but to enable businesses, local authorities and citizens to develop meaningful conversations with policymakers.  

“The 2020 climate summit is a massive opportunity for the government of the UK to showcase its leadership to the world on the most pressing issue of our time,” Green Alliance’s head of politics Paul McNamee said.

This policy tracker will test whether the government can stand up at the end of the year and say it is taking the necessary action and leading by example. 2020 has to be the year we see a huge step-change in effective measures if legal targets are not to be missed and for the UK to kick start a decade of transformational climate action.”

All change for COP26

The publication of the report comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed he would be redeveloping the Government’s strategy for delivering COP26.

Former UK energy minister Claire O’Neill was removed from her position as COP26 president at the weekend, as part of a wider restructure of the Government’s COP26 team. Johnson is expected to detail his plans for the restructure at an event on Tuesday (4 February),  with Sir David Attenborough, Lord Stern and the PM’s new finance advisor for COP26 Mark Carney set to be in attendance.

Less recently, the UK Government confirmed it would discount the CCC’s advice on compliance with carbon budgets. At present, Ministers plan to carry forward emission reductions, which have already taken place, to the fourth and fifth carbon budget. 

Sarah George

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