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UK's climate change credibility rests on action, now

The Committee on Climate Change’s new progress report reveals that the UK Government has delivered just one of 25 critical policies to lower emissions in the past year.

Government isn't adequately addressing all of the climate risks it identified as critical
Government isn't adequately addressing all of the climate risks it identified as critical

The UK’s “credibility” on climate change hinges on Government action over the next 18 months, said the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), following the release if its Reducing UK emissions progress report to Parliament.


The report found that over the past year, the Government has delivered just one of 25 critical policies needed to get emissions reductions back on track.


Net-zero target


UK has legislated for net-zero emissions by 2050. The CCC said that UK action to curb greenhouse gas emissions is lagging far behind what is needed, even to meet previous, less stringent, emissions targets.


Meanwhile, action to prepare our homes, businesses and natural environment for a warming world is less ambitious than it was 10 years ago. Of 33 key sectors assessed by the Committee in a second, related report, none show good progress when it comes to managing climate change risk.


“The UK is not ready for the impacts of climate change, even at the minimum expected level of global warming,” said Baroness Brown of Cambridge, chair of the CCC’s Adaptation Committee. “The Government is not yet addressing adequately all of the climate risks it has itself identified as critical – including from surface water flooding and the impacts of high temperatures on health.


“As the UK prepares to host next year’s global climate summit, the Government has a window to demonstrate its commitment to addressing these responsibilities. Citizens, homes, workplaces and critical infrastructure must be prepared for a future with unavoidable climate impacts. The effects of climate change are already being felt in the UK.”

"City regions and local authorities can be leaders in delivering the change we need through a ‘gain, not pain’ carbon reduction approach"

Cara Jenkinson, senior UK programme officers at sustainable energy charity, Ashden, described the report as “depressing reading” but also highlighted how city regions and local authorities can be leaders in delivering the change we need through a "gain, not pain" carbon reduction approach.


She said: “This will deliver better health, more green space and new green jobs, which will improve all our lives. We know through our work with organisations delivering warmer homes, cleaner transport and much more, that the proven solutions exist that they can adopt to deliver better lives today.


“They all tell us that government support for green solutions is woefully inadequate. Innovators want more investment, more enabling policies and more incentives for households to do the right thing. If government gets this right, we can reach net-zero emissions and face down the climate emergency".

Ashden recently launched a toolkit to help national and local governments realise climate action plans.


In order to meet the UK’s legally-binding emissions targets, the Committee’s 2019 Progress Report to Parliament recommends that:

  • net-zero policy is embedded across all levels and departments of Government: with strong leadership at the centre. The new Prime Minister will need to lead the UK’s zero-carbon transition from day one, working closely with First Ministers in Wales and Scotland and in Northern Ireland, once appointed;
  • Government policies to reduce UK emissions to net zero are business-friendly: policy should provide clear and stable direction and a simple, investable set of rules and incentives which leave room for businesses to innovate and find the most effective means of switching to low-carbon technologies;
  • the public must be fully engaged in the UK’s net-zero transition: over half of the emissions cuts required to reach net zero require people to do things differently. Policy and low-carbon products should be designed around individuals’ needs;
  • the UK strongly leads international action to tackle climate change: the UK should use its new net-zero target, and potential position as host of COP26, to encourage increased effort to reduce emissions worldwide, including pushing for the adoption of similar world-leading targets by other developed countries in the EU and beyond.

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