Previous progress doesn’t mean UK can go slow on net-zero, CCC warns

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has advised the Government against carrying forward surplus emissions from its latest carbon budget, warning that doing so could weaken the UK’s message on achieving net-zero emissions and create uncertainty for investors and businesses.

Previous progress doesn’t mean UK can go slow on net-zero, CCC warns

UK Government urged to meet and surpass its next carbon budgets.

Today (28 February), the CCC has written to Minister of State for Energy Security and Net-Zero Graham Stuart, stressing the critical need to sustain an ambitious trajectory for emissions reduction, with an acceleration in pace over the next decade.

Under the UK’s Climate Change Act, carbon budgets serve as legal benchmarks for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over successive five-year periods. At the end of each carbon budget period, surplus emissions are addressed to prevent any relaxation of future targets.

The Third Carbon Budget, ending amidst the pandemic-induced economic downturn, saw a surplus primarily attributed to external factors, such as changes in the EU’s Emissions Trading System and the impacts of COVID-19.

Despite this surplus, the CCC advises against carrying it forward, stressing that doing so could jeopardise the UK’s ability to meet its 2030 emissions reduction commitments, for which it is already off-track.

Such a move, the Committee argues, could undermine the nation’s progress towards achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, a commitment aligned with global climate objectives.

The CCC’s interim chair Professor Piers Forster said: “The path ahead is tougher, and we risk losing momentum if future legal targets are loosened on a technicality. The UK is already substantially off track for 2030 and the Government must resist the temptation to take their foot off the accelerator.”

Moreover, this divergence from global agreements, the CCC notes, could introduce uncertainty for investors and businesses, potentially impeding the nation’s transition to a low-carbon economy.

Recent research found that nearly two-thirds of UK energy companies have either shifted or intend to shift investments away from the UK to a market with supportive policies for their sustainability goals, risking a potential £115bn investment.

The letter from the CCC comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated that the UK can pursue a “more pragmatic” pathway to net-zero given previous decarbonisation progress. He used this rhetoric to announce rollbacks to policies on building energy efficiency, low-carbon heating and electric vehicles in September 2023.

Progress to date

Central to the CCC’s recommendations is the recognition that meeting future carbon budgets necessitates a significant escalation in decarbonisation efforts across key sectors.

The Committee notes that while progress has been made in decarbonising electricity generation and reducing industrial emissions, sectors such as transportation and buildings lag behind, requiring accelerated action.

The Committee is urging the Government to meet and surpass its next carbon budgets through robust emission reduction measures, in order to uphold UK’s global leadership position in combating climate change while safeguarding the viability of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

In its most recent annual progress report to Parliament, the CCC warned that 30% of the required emissions reductions through to the 2030s have risks attached, and policy updates are therefore required. Additionally, plans are either “completely missing” or “currently inadequate” for 18% of the required emissions reduction.

Comments (1)

  1. Richard Phillips says:

    Politicians are not generally scientists, they have be coaxed!
    They mean well!

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