The Climate Change Act: 10 years on

clock • 4 min read

A decade of bold decision making has delivered - but this is just the start

2008 - a year that historians will look back on with poignant memories in years to come. Barack Obama became the first black President of the United States, Beijing hosted the Olympic Games, and the globe was in the midst of an economic crisis.

Against this backdrop, something radical was happening in our Parliament. The UK's landmark domestic Climate Change Act passed into law with near-unanimous cross-party support, setting an ambitious legally-binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050. A precious political consensus on climate action was achieved, and has been preserved ever since.

And a report out just today from the London School of Economics presents a clear case that this ground-breaking Act has been absolutely instrumental in advancing climate action globally over the past decade - and has provided a framework through which the UK has lead the world in reducing emissions, while continuing to strengthen our economy.

The report also notes the UK's Act's truly innovative legal framework and I am incredibly proud that our work is held with such high regard across the globe. It is only fitting that the 'mother of parliaments' has produced a first of its kind piece of legislation that is inspiring similar acts in other nations.

But we must never be complacent. The case for climate action is unequivocal and we must continue to not only drive emissions reduction at home, but abroad too. I want other nations to use our climate law as the gold standard for their own emissions reduction policy - and to follow in our footsteps. Just this week, I met with key players in our finance sector, where the Green Finance Taskforce commissioned by this government made wide-ranging recommendations to unlock the vast potential of green investment, trillions of pounds of private sector capital that will be needed to be deployed if we are to meet our binding targets. I now want to take forward these important recommendations - and then see our model for clean growth replicated across the globe.

Finance alone however, is not enough. It is innovation in our universities and private sector, catalysed by the right resources and opportunities that will really shift the dial. I'm delighted to see new technologies and business springing up across the UK, driven by government funding and coordinated by the Clean Growth Strategy, a 'grand challenge' within our Industrial Strategy. From offshore wind in Blyth, to pint-sized robots insulating homes in South London, we are investing more than £2.5bn to support low carbon innovation through our Clean Growth Strategy ensuring that the UK continues to lead the way in cutting emissions while creating wealth and good jobs. 

In fact, between 1990 and 2017, the UK reduced its emissions by more than 40 per cent while growing the economy by more than two thirds - the best performance in the G7 on a per person basis proving that economies can be grown in a clean, green way.

The power sector too has been truly transformed in the last 10 years thanks to the direction of travel established in the Climate Change Act. Say goodbye to dirty coal power stations - five years ago they accounted for 40 per cent of our electricity, now this figure stands at seven per cent, and through our Powering Past Coal Alliance, I'm proud to be driving this transition on an international stage.

In the place of coal an unprecedented level of investment in renewables means that we now have the biggest installed offshore wind capacity in the world. Indeed, official statistics published just yesterday show that 2017 was a record breaking year for renewables - with over 50 per cent of electricity produced from low carbon sources in 2017 - an impressive 29 per cent coming from renewables. As we were braving the bone-chilling cold of storm Emma and the 'Beast from the East', Britain's renewables were powering ahead - with 35.7 per cent of electricity produced by wind on St Patrick's Day alone.

However, we must not take our foot off the pedal. Long term government support and planning is the key to our ongoing success. Too often, governments are constrained by spending targets or the threat of upcoming elections, and it was precisely this short term-ism which the Climate Change Act was supposed to help overcome. We absolutely cannot take a 'quick-win' or short-termist approach to this issue that requires investment, attention, resource. 

So, I'm now looking forward to the next 10 years of action. The groundwork may be laid, but we know that alongside the vast opportunity of clean growth, there are challenges ahead. The transition to a low carbon economy will define the UK's economy for the next century and I'm confident that with the help of the Climate Change Act, we will continue to lead the charge towards a low carbon future.

Claire Perry, MP, is Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth.

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