climate change politics

UK is not yet on track for net zero

The Climate Change Committee is the government’s official climate advisory body, and last week they delivered their latest progress report. Their headline conclusion is that “current programmes will not deliver net zero”, and that there are “major failures in delivery” beyond a couple of well performing sectors.

In the last decade, Britain has made major progress on decarbonising electricity. It’s been the main driver of falling emissions, as renewable energy capacity has grown and coal has almost disappeared from the grid. This had led to a 70% cut in emissions in ten years, without any sign of the power shortages that some feared.

The other specific policy that is working well is sales of electric cars, where sales are ahead of government targets – no doubt helped along by the unforeseen rise in fuel prices this year. It’s a fairly narrow measure of success though, since it is only sales that are going well. On charging points, the CCC warns that policy is “significantly off track”. That risks a backlash and reversal on those sales figures if people can’t charge their new cars. (Look out for a wave of ‘EV ruins family holiday’ stories in the tabloids this summer.)

Beyond electricity and electric car sales, the news isn’t so positive. As yet, the policies aren’t in place to set emissions on a downward trajectory in agriculture, and the CCC reports that “progress in reducing farming emissions has been glacial.” Tree planting and woodland management is nowhere near targets, outside of Scotland.

There is also a “shocking gap in policy for better insulated homes”, a failure that has left UK households more exposed to energy price spikes.

Taken together, the government has ‘credible plans’ for around a third of the carbon reduction we need to reach net zero. A further third is being left to chance, and the rest is honestly not going to happen unless we get our act together.

For anyone who’s been watching climate policy, none of this will come as any surprise. The government has been coasting since COP26, which was a rhetorical high point. A number of key policy platforms are delayed. Some have been announced with little to say about climate change, such as the timid new Food Strategy. A vocal minority on the backbenchers continue to agitate against net zero.

The CCC report is written to and for the government, so it’s a really useful document to quote from if you’re writing to your representatives. I’d recommend dropping them a line encouraging them along, especially if you have a Conservative MP. Point out to them that home efficiency will lower bills and help with the cost of living crisis. Highlight how a national programme of retrofitting will create thousands of new jobs. And show that their constituents want to see more action on climate change.

If you’re writing, the full report is 600 pages and so you might want to start here, or look up the key messages and recommendations here.

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