Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, Chair of the Grantham Institute and member of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), considers the 2018 Progress Report to Parliament, and why it’s the most hard-hitting yet.
Last month, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) launched its 2018 Progress Report to Parliament. Under the 2008 Climate Change Act, the CCC produces annual reports that chart UK progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for climate change. This, the tenth, is perhaps the most-hard hitting yet.
Looking back at the decade that has followed the Climate Change Act, the report celebrates a number of things. For one, the link between economic growth and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has been broken – in the UK since 1990, emissions have fallen by 43% and the economy has grown by over 70%. In addition, progress in moving to low-carbon electricity generation has been striking. Since 2008, the UK has achieved a 59% reduction in emissions from electricity generation – thanks, in part, to long-term planning and coherent policies through successive governments. Reduction of emissions from waste has also been impressive. However, this great shift in the power sector has masked the lack of progress elsewhere.
“The UK is not on course to meet the legally binding fourth and fifth carbon budgets.”
There have recently been only small emission reductions in other sectors. In fact, transport emissions have grown in the last five years. Now accounting for 28% of total UK emissions, transport has become the largest emitter. The reduction in emissions from the electricity sector must continue, but can no longer make the contribution to reaching our targets that they have in the past. Significant short- and long-term progress has to be made in other sectors if the UK is going to meet the targets that Parliament has set following advice from the CCC.
How can the UK get back on track?
The CCC has four simple, but far-reaching messages to Government to get the UK back on track:
- Support the simple, low-cost options, such as onshore wind, insulation in buildings and tree planting.
- Commit to effective regulation and strict enforcement, particularly on construction and vehicle emissions.
- End the chopping and changing of policy – a consistent policy environment is important for investor and business confidence, but has been lacking in, for example, zero-carbon homes and the development of Carbon Capture and Storage.
- Act now to keep long-term options open – further delays will only serve to increase costs and reduce options in areas such as new national infrastructure for transport and low-carbon heat.
The CCC welcomed the Government’s Clean Growth Strategy, but it is now looking for real commitments. This Progress Report gives a list of specific milestones for Government action that the CCC is looking for and will report on next year. Claire Perry MP, Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, has said that she will be asking the CCC’s advice on the UK’s long-term emissions targets following the Paris Agreement and the IPCC 1.5°C report this autumn. This, and the move towards exiting the EU, provides the context for what needs to be done during the next year.
As a founding member of the CCC, I have now reached the end of my second and final term, but I will be watching closely to see what happens next – and, of course, trying to influence the UK to get back on track!
The report, and the infographics that go with it, can be read in full on the CCC website.
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