UK’s climate watchdog to refocus advisory reports to account for coronavirus impacts on net-zero

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has announced it is amending its advisory reports due for publication over the next 12 months to account for responses to the coronavirus pandemic, with a report on the UK's sixth carbon budget pushed back to December.

UK’s climate watchdog to refocus advisory reports to account for coronavirus impacts on net-zero

Advice on the Sixth Carbon Budget

The CCC, which advised on the UK’s net-zero emissions target for 2050, is set to refocus some key policy documents to include advice on delivering recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic in a manner that is aligned to the UK’s legally binding need to radically reduce emissions.

Specifically, the CCC’s annual progress report to Parliament in June will feature rebuilding efforts for the economy and production in a way that supports a “just” transition towards net-zero emissions. The body will write to ministers in the coming weeks to kickstart this process.

While COP26 has been pushed back to 2021 because of the coronavirus, the CCC is taking steps to ensure the Government is guided on efforts to mobilise a global climate agreement. The UK Government’s former chief climate negotiator and former lead negotiator for the EU, Pete Betts, has agreed to assist the CCC in this area. Betts is a veteran of 16 UN climate summits and was a lead negotiator for the EU when the Paris Agreement was created in 2015.

The CCC’s Chief Executive, Chris Stark, said: “Responding to the pandemic is, rightly, the immediate priority for everyone. Eventually, thoughts will turn to the need to rebuild after coronavirus – the climate priorities can help shape these efforts. The Committee will offer advice to the Government on constructing a resilient recovery. Coronavirus is teaching us all the value of prudent planning for global shocks.”

“I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Pete Betts to our team. His insight will be invaluable to the Committee in the run-up to the most important summit on climate change since the landmark Paris Agreement in 2015.”

The CCC has confirmed that its advice on the Sixth Carbon Budget, which covers the reduction levels required for the period of 2033-2027 will now be published in December 2020, rather than September. The CCC claims this will allow for extra time to complete the analysis in a way that reflects on the current impacts of the coronavirus.

It will be the first carbon budget to be created since the UK legislated for net-zero, with all other carbon budgets to date having been developed in line with the 2008 Climate Change Act’s original 2050 target of an 80% reduction in GHG emissions, against a 1990 baseline.

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

Ministers have confirmed that the Government will carry forward emission reductions, which have already taken place, into its future carbon budgets in a bid to bridge these gaps.

The new publication date is still within the statutory timetable and the advice could well form the UK’s new Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement, which the nation will need to submit ahead of COP26.

The CCC’s third climate change risk assessment evidence report is still due to be delivered to Government in summer 2021, although the body is keeping this date under review. The adaptation reports outline how ready sectors are to transition to a low-carbon economy, while also reflecting on how the Government is performing against key environmental targets.

Matt Mace

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