Government publishes 82-page progress report in response to CCC's latest round of clean growth recommendations
The government has hailed "huge progress" against its Clean Growth Strategy targets over the past year, but conceded that relative successes in decarbonising power generation and waste has not been matched across other areas of the economy.
In a report setting out the UK's progress on decarbonisation since the launch of the Clean Growth Strategy in October 2017, the government highlighted statistics showing overall UK emissions per capita have fallen 49 per cent between 1990 and 2016.
The report - which was published yesterday in response to the Committee on Climate Change's (CCC) latest assessment of the government's current decarbonisation plans which was released in June - also said the UK economy was continuing to operate more efficiently while producing lower carbon emissions.
The UK's emissions intensity ratio (EIR) - the amount of greenhouse gases produced for each unit of GDP - stood at 237 tonnes per £1m of GDP in 2017, falling on average 5.4 per cent each year since 2015, the report said.
"UK can both meet its legally binding emission reduction targets and maximise the economic benefit for people and businesses, as the world makes the transition to low carbon technologies and services," the report states.
However, there is no mention in the report of the recent decision to green light construction of a third runway at Heathrow - a move roundly criticised by climate campaigners - nor any response to repeated calls from industry and the Labour Party to allow onshore wind to compete for renewables contracts.
Nevertheless, the government conceded emissions reductions in power generation and waste management made up the bulk of progress to date, and said is focus was "now on replicating the progress on power and waste across the economy".
Over the summer, the CCC chairman Lord Deben suggested the government should set clear decarbonisation targets for the car industry as part of efforts to deliver emissions reductions from those sectors where car cuts have proved elusive. And, on Friday the CCC wrote to the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling setting out its concerns regarding the government's Road to Zero strategy and lack of a firm, ambitious future phase-out date for petrol and diesel car sales.
Yesterday's response from the government, though, continues to assert that the transition to low carbon road transport will be "industry and consumer led". "We are clear that there is a role for the government to play, as part of a holistic approach that includes adequate vehicle supply, a strong consumer base, and the right market conditions and infrastructure," it states.
Elsewhere, the report concedes emissions from transport remain high - the sector recently leapfrogged energy to become UK's highest emitting industry - due to increased demand.
On aviation, while making no specific mention of Heathrow, the government said it plans to publish its Aviation Strategy in the first half of next year, with a Green Paper currently being prepared for publication before the end of 2018. But it said it has "not reached a final view on the appropriate level of aviation emissions in 2050" in line with the UK's carbon targets.
The government said it would consider all cost-effective measures to ensure the aviation sector contributes to the UK's emissions reduction obligations, including new standards and offsetting schemes, technological improvements, the use of sustainable alternative fuels, and policies to encourage behaviour change.
In the CCC's June recommendations, it also stressed the need for the UK to act quickly to keep options open for decarbonisation technologies in the long term, such as carbon capture and storage (CCS).
Yesterday's report said the government would respond to the Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) Cost Challenge Taskforce's recommendations before the end of the year and set out the steps it believes are needed to deploy CCUS at scale during the 2030s "subject to costs coming down sufficiently".
Chief executive of the CCC Chris Stark yesterday welcomed the government's response for recognising the need to drive carbon reduction beyond energy and waste.
However, he said the government's recent Road to Zero strategy represented a "missed opportunities for cost effective steps to clean up transport".
"The coming policy announcements on carbon capture and storage , energy efficiency and low-carbon heat are an opportunity to get back on track," he added.
The government's Clean Growth progress report was published to coincide with Green GB Week, which kicked off yesterday. The week of events and actions is aimed at showcasing the UK green economy and has seen more than 30 major corporates pledge new action to address climate change.
However, while the attempt to raise the profile of green economy has been broadly welcomed by business leaders and campaigner, it is unlikely to appease the growing band of stakeholders who are keen to see the government come forward with specific policies to tackle emissions from those sectors of the economy where carbon levels remain stubbornly and unsustainably high.
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