The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has urged the UK government to urgently expand its Clean Growth Strategy, announced in October.
In a new, independent assessment of the Clean Growth Strategy the CCC – the UK’s official climate watchdog – welcomed the fact that the country’s emissions fell by 42% from 1990 to 2016. The UK has set a target of reducing emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels by 2050, and its rate of reduction is currently faster than the average for G7 countries.
However, the committee also warned that even if new proposals are delivered in full, the country will still miss its emissions reduction targets. It highlights a number of areas in which more action is needed to fill gaps and strengthen legislation towards the UK’s targets.
In particular, the CCC warned that more detail is needed on the government’s plans to:
- Improve energy efficiency standards in new buildings;
- Deploy carbon capture and storage (CCUS) at scale;
- Phase out petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040;
- Cease installing fossil fuel-based heating in homes and businesses; and
- Generate 85% of electricity from low-carbon sources by 2032.
While these elements of the strategy are fundamental in delivering the government’s targets, the plan fails to address delivery risk. For example, the strategy relies on the construction of the new Hinkley Point nuclear power plant, but does not address the risk that it may not be completed on time.
What did the CCC say?
The CCC’s chair, Lord Deben, welcomed the scope of the strategy, but cautioned that strong follow-up action is still needed: “The Clean Growth Strategy is ambitious in its aims to build a thriving low-carbon Britain but ambitions alone are not enough. As it stands, the strategy does not deliver enough action to meet the UK’s emissions targets in the 2020s and 2030s.”
He recommended: “The government’s policies and proposals will need to be firmed up as a matter of urgency – and supplemented with additional measures – if the UK is to deliver on its legal commitments and secure its position as an international climate change leader.”
Alongside this recommendation, the committee proposed a number of further actions the government could take, including:
- Higher levels of tree planting;
- Efforts to reduce emissions from agriculture;
- Shorter-term improvements to energy efficiency of both buildings and vehicles;
- Increasing uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles by 2030; and
- Extending the UK landfill ban to cover waste including wood and plastics.
These supplementary actions may prove necessary, as the CCC estimates that even if current proposals are delivered, the UK could miss its carbon targets by between 10-65 MtCO2e. This refers to mega tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, a metric measure used to compare emissions from greenhouse gases based on global warming potential.