The CCC's roadmap is hugely ambitious, but also entirely feasible and genuinely attractive - the time for government excuses is over
Yesterday's massive, near 200 page report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) contains few surprises. This is to be welcomed as its predictability - what critics might call its small c conservatism - is testament to the remarkable strength and breadth of the consensus that has built around the need to deliver a rapid net zero transition.
As such, the report broadly reiterates many of the key messages that have been delivered repeatedly to the government in recent weeks and months by everyone from the CBI to Greenpeace.
The rhetoric in support of net zero, the renewed support for onshore renewables, the increased ambition on transport decarbonisation, the continuing coal power phase out, and the steady flow of innovation funding are all hugely welcome. But there has been far too little progress on numerous other fronts, with building energy efficiency, industrial decarbonisation, and climate resilience looking particularly neglected. Meanwhile, officials are running out of convincing ways to say 'will be published in due course' when it comes to the status of the energy whitepaper, national infrastructure strategy, and myriad other consultation responses.
Consequently, the CCC report has become arguably the most comprehensive addition yet to the library of studies making the case for a green recovery that both creates jobs, boosts the economy, bolsters climate resilience, and accelerates decarbonisation efforts.
Some critics may argue this focus on what comes next - not to mention the insanely busy news cycle - means the government has got off a little lightly.
A year on from the UK passing its net zero legislation and a decade after David Cameron vowed to lead the greenest government ever, the UK is still not on track to meet its medium term carbon targets and many of the CCC's long-standing recommendations remain unfulfilled. The fact the UK has changed its Prime Minister, suspended its Parliament, held an election, left the EU, and stumbled into the worst health crisis in a century is only a partial excuse when you consider how long experts have warning a step change in decarbonisation efforts is required.
Cynics will also observe that we've been here before. Too many calls have gone up warning that the step change has to come now, that this is the critical opportunity. At the Copenhagen Summit, at the signing of the Paris Agreement, after each and every election, the reminder is again issued that the pace of decarbonisation has to accelerate.
Arguably the most concerning component of the report is the confirmation the CCC's report on how to enhance the UK's medium term carbon targets won't come until December, meaning there is a good chance the host of the COP26 Summit may miss the end of 2020 deadline to submit its enhanced NDC climate action plan to the UN.
Again, every year that passes is three per cent of the available time to build a net zero emission economy.
And yet the only pragmatic path forward is to recognise that the response to the pandemic has to represent a tipping point, that a unique and tragic opportunity has been provided, that the clock is ticking and without deep emissions cuts over the next decade runaway climate change becomes ever more likely.
The CCC provides a comprehensive and compelling roadmap for engineering such a transformation. It draws on the considerable progress the UK has already made and sets out how a raft of economically beneficial, technologically low risk, democratically popular, no regrets policies can lay the foundations for the next phase of the green industrial revolution.
The roadmap set out by the CCC is hugely ambitious, but it is also entirely feasible and genuinely attractive, especially for an economy in desperate need of investment and a country crying out for a renewed sense of mission. The government should embrace it in its entirety and deliver on its recommendations. Regardless of the myriad challenges the UK's political leadership now faces, there cannot be another year of stalled progress and deferred decisions. After all, as the CCC yesterday observed, "there is no other option".
A version of this article originally appeared in the BusinessGreen Overnight Briefing newsletter, which is available to all BusinessGreen subscribers.
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