The Climate Change Committee (CCC), the government’s independent advisors on how well it is meeting its targets to tackle climate change, has slammed the government for its “worryingly slow” climate progress. The CCC is now less confident than it was last year that the government will meet its emissions-reduction goals from 2030 onwards.
The committee says that the government doesn’t have credible plans for over four-fifths of the cuts in emissions needed. Worryingly, almost half of these cuts either have plans with significant risk or no credible plans at all.
Today’s progress report is a damning assessment of the government’s new carbon reduction strategy. Its own advisors say there are now only credible plans for less than a fifth of the emissions cuts needed to meet the UK’s legally binding climate targetsMike Childs, Head of Policy, Friends of the Earth.
It also says that the UK’s position as a climate-change leader has been lost, because of government decisions to back new oil and gas extraction and its approval of a new coal mine in Cumbria. Embarrassingly, the CCC also says the government is way off meeting the emissions cuts it promised the world it would make at Glasgow's international COP 26 climate talks in 2021.
Shockingly, both the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities have failed to achieve a single of the priority recommendations made by the CCC last year.
Outgoing CCC chair Lord Deben wants much faster, bolder action from the government:
The lesson of my 10 years at the CCC is that early action benefits the people of this country and helps us to meet the challenges of the coming decades more cheaply and more easily… I urge the government to regroup on net zero and commit to bolder delivery. This is a period when pace must be prioritised over perfection.Lord Deben, Chair of the CCC.
How risky are the plans to reach our lower emission targets?
The diagram below shows the next three 4-year periods where government plans could lower our carbon emissions, with the dotted blue line showing the CCC’s proposed pathway to net zero. The coloured sections show emission cuts that are covered by government plans that are credible, have some or significant risks, or are completely insufficient.
The target for 2023 to 2027 can be reached with plans that the CCC think are credible – the dotted line is still in the green sector.
But the 2028 to 2032 target will be reached only if all the credible plans and most of the ones with some risk happen.
And even worse, the target furthest in the future, for 2033 to 2037 will only be reached if all the plans are put into action, including a lot with significant risks and most worryingly where action is needed but there are no plans.
CCC recommendations for urgent real-world action
1. More renewable energy
The CCC says "an opportunity was missed" for rapid growth in onshore wind and solar. This growth would increase our clean energy supply and reduce our dependence on imported gas.
2. Heat pumps and insulation
Buildings contribute 17% of all UK emissions, and there’s been no reduction in this sector since 2010. The government wants to install 600,000 heat pumps by 2028, but currently 9 times less are being put in.
Insulation is the fastest way to reduce energy use in our homes, keeping heat in over winter and out in summer. Yet insulation rates actually fell in 2022 compared to 2021. Nor has any progress been made on last year's CCC’s recommendation to help owner-occupied homes reach a minimum energy performance rating of EPC C by 2035.
3. Rapid reform of planning policies
Upgrading the electricity grid and building net-zero infrastructure are being stopped or delayed by current planning policies. The CCC says all planning decisions should have full regard for the need to rapidly reduce emissions, while ensuring nature is protected and restored at the same time.
4. Electric vans not just cars
In 2019, vans accounted for 16% of all vehicle miles driven in the UK. But, while the CCC says electric car sales are on target, sales of electric vans are “significantly off track".
5. More trees please
DEFRA needs to rapidly increase tree planting, doubling the number planted by 2025 to reach its target of 30,000 hectares of woodland creation per year. And peatland restoration needs to be 5 times higher, because peatlands in poor condition emit carbon while those in good condition lock it away.
Our woodland opportunity map shows the best areas where new woodlands and rewilding could increase the UKs tree cover, currently the lowest in Europe.
6. No airport expansion
The CCC recommends there should be no overall airport expansion across the UK. Instead, capacity should be managed across all airports and until that happens, no airport should expand its capacity. But currently, many UK airports have expansion plans.
7. Electrify industry
Industry is the third-highest sector for UK emissions. The CCC points out that there is no clear path to support industry moving to electric power that could then be powered by renewables, and little evidence that industry has plans to electrify at the scale and pace needed.
8. Low-carbon diets, lower meat diets
The number of ruminant animals (particularly cows and sheep) has declined slowly, as has the amount of meat eaten across the UK. So policies to shift more people to low-carbon diets, with less meat in them, are still needed. The UK is far from meeting its international pledge of a 30% cut in methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, by 2030 and livestock is the biggest source of this gas.