As had been widely expected, the CCC has provided a damning assessment of the UK's decarbonisation progress - BusinessGreen rounds up the reaction
Today the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) published two major new reports assessing the UK's progress against its carbon targets and its climate resilience goals. To the surprise of precisely no one the in-depth reports provide a damning assessment of the government's progress to date, warning that despite encouraging progress in some areas the UK is still lagging badly with both its emissions reduction efforts and its climate adaptation plans.
Particularly sharp criticism is reserved for the failure to tackle rising emissions from transport, agriculture, and industry, and the lack of a sufficiently ambitious strategy for tackling escalating climate impacts.
BusinessGreen rounds up the reaction to the two reports from politicians, academics, campaign groups, and businesses.
Lord Deben, CCC Chairman, said:
"The UK is the first major economy to set a net zero emissions target and intends to host the world's leaders at next year's landmark climate conference (COP26). These are historic steps forward and position the UK at the forefront of the global low carbon transition. But international ambition does not deliver domestic action. It's time for the government to show it takes its responsibilities seriously. Reducing emissions to net zero by 2050, requires real action by government now."
Baroness Brown of Cambridge, Chair of the CCC's Adaptation Committee, said:
"The UK is not ready for the impacts of climate change, even at the minimum expected level of global warming. The government is not yet addressing adequately all of the climate risks it has itself identified as critical - including from surface water flooding and the impacts of high temperatures on health. As the UK prepares to host next year's global climate summit, the government has a window to demonstrate its commitment to addressing these responsibilities. Citizens, homes, workplaces and critical infrastructure must be prepared for a future with unavoidable climate impacts. The effects of climate change are already being felt in the UK."
Rebecca Long Bailey MP, Labour's Shadow Business and Energy Secretary, said:
"This is a remarkable, damning assessment of the government's failure to tackle and prepare for climate change by their own advisors.
"With the government delivering on just one out of 25 policy areas, this is proof, if more were needed, that the Government has no plan to tackle the climate emergency declared by Parliament.
"Labour takes the climate crisis seriously, and will kickstart a Green Industrial Revolution to safeguard our future and transform our economy."
Green MP Caroline Lucas said:
"This damning verdict from the Committee on Climate Change underlines the Government's abject failure to deliver the policies needed to meet our climate targets.
"Words are cheap - what we need are the bold and ambitious policies that climate experts and campaigners have been urging for years. The government's ongoing refusal to face the reality of climate breakdown and deliver what the science demands is a betrayal of our young people who have been taking to the streets to demand urgent action.
"While Ministers have repeatedly tried to claim credit for global climate leadership, warm words are no substitute for the real change that's required.
"If government is serious about delivering on its own rhetoric, it needs to urgently close the gap between words and reality. It could make a start by dramatically changing the way we use land to restore natural habitats, democratically redesigning our transport system so we get more affordable accessible public transport rather than more runways and roads, and investing in a Green New Deal to rapidly decarbonise the economy and eradicate inequality."
A BEIS spokesperson said:
"As the CCC recognises, we are the first major economy to legislate for net zero emissions, have cleaned up our power sector [and] cut emissions faster than any G7 country while growing the economy.
"We know there is more to do. We'll set out plans in the coming months to tackle emissions from aviation, heat, energy and transport as well as further measures to protect the environment from extreme weather including flood protection, tree planting and peatland management."
Rachel Reeves MP, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee, said:
"The government's recent commitment to reducing the UK's carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 was welcome but targets are meaningless if not matched by concrete action. This latest CCC report shows the government has failed dismally to back up its rhetoric with ambitious policies which deliver the cuts in emissions the UK needs to achieve.
"Getting to net-zero requires will require action across all parts of government and our economy. Yet, in areas such as electric vehicles, carbon capture and storage, and renewable energy, we have seen the government has been too lacking in the ambition and political will to deliver the concrete policies necessary to make an impact. The costs of inaction, for our economy, for our environment, and for our health, are too great for the UK government to lag behind. The government needs to get the UK back on track and come forward with the policies, actions and regulations needed to achieve the more ambitious target of net zero emissions by 2050.
"We look forward to questioning the BEIS Minister [on Tuesday] on the government's reaction to the CCC report and how the UK government is going to deliver the policies needed to deliver on its legal obligations."
RenewableUK's Deputy Chief Executive Emma Pinchbeck said:
"Just last month the UK set a world-leading climate target but there is now a void between our ambition and policies to actually meet it. Progress is slowing down due to government inaction. Deciding you want to win Wimbledon is great - but at some point you have to pick up the racket.
"The CCC advises that we should be supporting even more proven technologies like renewables, energy efficiency and EVs. Government should remove their barriers to cheap onshore wind and invest in innovation: floating wind, marine renewables and energy storage are vital to global decarbonisation.
"Our offshore wind success shows that investing in green technologies in the UK pays dividends - not just for carbon reduction, but for British industry - the CCC says we should be repeating that success in other technologies, because the clock is ticking on climate change."
Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the UK Nuclear Industry Association, said:
"This report rightly highlights the significant policy gap that exists just to reach our previous, less ambitious decarbonisation targets.
"As the committee have concluded, technologies which can offer firm and flexible power, such as nuclear, will be required to reach net zero. The scale of deployment required by 2050 means we need to make rapid progress across all electricity sources. That is why it is both prudent and responsible for the government to assess the potential of a Regulated Asset Base model to fund large energy infrastructure.
"The government has the opportunity in the forthcoming Energy White Paper to address the concerns of the CCC today, set out an enduring policy framework that will take the UK to net zero, and be a blueprint for other developed nations to do the same."
Dr Tim Rotheray, CEO of the Association of Decentralised Energy, said:
"The CCC highlights something the whole energy sector has seen. Legislating for net zero is an excellent move - but it alone is not enough. It is time now for government to get on and make it happen. Of 25 actions identified as needed by the CCC last year only one was completed. Taking the general public with us on the journey requires consistent well considered action and it is needed now. Policies that enable energy customers to participate in and benefit from the low carbon transition are central to that.
"Across the energy industry there is a growing sense of frustration at the lack of decision making from politicians to keep emissions falling. For immediate action we need focus on growing the role of existing sectors such as local energy and energy efficiency, which are already delivering lower costs and increased comfort and productivity for thousands of business customers and home owners. If government puts customer-led energy at the heart of its policy making and works alongside business we can put power back into the hands of customers and meet our net zero in a fair way."
Mark Sommerfeld, policy manager at the Renewable Energy Association:
"Today's CCC progress report must be the starting gun for government to get on and deliver the UK's legally binding ambitions to have net zero emissions by 2050. The report reflects the status of renewable and clean tech markets today, with a dearth of polices constraining the pipeline of power, heat and transport projects needed to deliver immediate carbon reductions.
"What's more this policy gap is currently expected to grow, support for renewable heat technologies - under the RHI - is set to come to an end in 2021, transport targets continue to lack sufficient ambition and some of the cheapest renewable power technologies lack a viable route to market. This current stasis puts supply chains and jobs at risk, while also slowing innovation which will be crucial to further decarbonisation in the future."
STA chief executive Chris Hewett said:
"For four years now the Committee on Climate Change has been urging the government to get behind the most popular and cost-effective renewables. In what is now surely a national Groundhog Day, we again fully support their calls for technology neutral auctions that provide a secure route-to-market for large-scale solar. On the publication of last year's Progress Report we said the Government must now surely listen and act. Not only has nothing happened but the policy framework has actually gone backwards for solar.
"Many organisations in the UK will once again share the CCC's deep frustration at government inaction. However, we urge the CCC and concerned parties to look very carefully at what can be done right now with rooftop solar, which can be economically attractive and which answers their call to put people at the heart of policy design. For those that are unable to invest in rooftop solar, there are further opportunities to support new solar parks through Power Purchase Agreements and genuine green tariffs. Of course we need to see government get its act together on climate and energy policy, but the need to act is urgent and we must not wait on them when there is so much that can be done today."
Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, said:
"This is a truly brutal reality check on the government's current progress in tackling the climate emergency. It paints the government as a sleeper who's woken up, seen the house is on fire, raised the alarm and gone straight back to sleep.
"Having a world-leading target is not enough, it needs to be accompanied by policies which match the target's ambition on cars and vans, houses and offices, trains and planes. The government can't keep coasting on the carbon reductions from getting coal out of the electricity system, which was absolutely necessary but by no means sufficient. We urgently need to take the same approach to oil, gas, and every sector with significant emissions. The new prime minister really must take the government's net zero commitment and turn it into something practically meaningful."
David Symons, UK Director of Sustainability at WSP, said:
"There is no time to waste. Today's welcome report shows the need for faster action to both support delivery of the net zero target and to prepare for climate change. It recognises that targets alone do not deliver results and the scale of action required is unprecedented. Much of the UK's existing and planned infrastructure will still be in place in 2050, and nearly one million homes will need to be retrofitted every year between now and 2050.
"With a year to go before the UK hopefully hosts the world's leaders for COP26, and a new government about to be unveiled, the timing is perfect to demonstrate that government is about more than setting ambitious goals for the future, and as much about setting a sustained pace of delivery across all sectors. Every day that passes without tangible action to mitigate climate change contributes to increasing the severity of its impacts. For this reason, we support the CCC's call for government to embed a net zero philosophy across all levels of government, to mandate businesses to disclose the financial risks they face from climate change and to take the public onboard this transition.
"With only one out of 25 of the headline policy actions put forward by the CCC last year deemed to be met, it may be time for government to unleash the full potential of the UK's engineers, planners and inventors on a national project of climate action.
"There are reasons to be cheerful. With the public and business community very much on board, policymakers will find very few obstacles as they move to the critical phase of delivery and implementation of the net zero target across all sectors of the economy."
Friends of the Earth's head of policy, Mike Childs said:
"It will take more than warm words to fix the climate crisis. Prime Minister Theresa May keeps talking about the need for climate action, while giving the green light to fracking and more roads and runways.
"Ending the nation's reliance on planet-wrecking gas, coal and oil must be the number one priority for the next Prime Minister.
"Reining in the rogue Department for Transport is crucial. It's been speeding in the wrong direction for far too long, with transport responsible for the largest source of polluting emissions.
"Billions of pounds are being squandered on gas-guzzling developments, while trams, trains, buses and cycling are starved of investment.
"There are huge economic and health benefits from leading the charge to a cleaner, safer future - all that's lacking is the political will."
Mike Foster, chief executive of the Energy and Utilities Alliance, said:
"Are we surprised that the UK is ‘lagging far behind' when it comes to its ambitious emissions targets? No. Is the industry frustrated at the lack of clarity and direction from government? Yes.
"Our members have been poised to deliver options to further reduce emissions from heat for some time, but the ‘green light' from government has not been forthcoming. We wholeheartedly agree with the CCC that; ‘the UK government must show it is serious about its legal obligations to tackle and prepare for climate change' and we urge government to get off the fence and create the environment where businesses can invest.
"Consumers also need clarity and consideration if they are to come on board. Decarbonising heat must be affordable and with minimal disruption. The gas infrastructure is already in place for nearly nine out of 10 homes. Using low or zero carbon gas in our homes - such as biomethane or hydrogen - will deliver the carbon reductions we need to make without any major disruption to peoples' lives.
"In addition, we must utilise all of the 'tools' and energy sources available to us. Carbon capture and storage - is a valuable addition to the suite of technologies, as a means of allowing the UK to use flexible energy sources to meet seasonal variations, dictated by the UK climate whilst supporting carbon reduction."
Energy Networks Association's Chief Executive, David Smith, said:
"It has been a historic year for the UK after outlining a highly ambitious vision for net zero emissions by 2050 and we must now seize this momentum to deliver the action needed.
"Our energy network companies will be at the heart of this action, building on the work already led by electricity network companies to integrate record levels of low-carbon electricity generation into the system while keeping costs low for the public. Not only have these network companies helped drive the low-carbon transition, but they are working closely with government and the wider industry to ensure the networks remain resilient in the face of climate change.
"Similarly, as we start to tackle some of our greatest challenges including the decarbonisation of industry, heat and transport, ENA's industry-wide Gas Decarbonisation Pathways Project is outlining a clear vision and actions for the low-cost, low carbon gas networks of the future."
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