Government’s actions to tackle climate change ‘falling well-short of what’s needed’

The Committee on Climate Change has warned the government’s policies are still only making sustainable changes at an “incremental” level

The UK Government’s actions to tackle climate change are falling well-short of what is needed to reach net zero by 2050.

That’s the verdict reached in a new report published by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), which notes despite the government’s adoption of its recommendation to target net zero emissions in the UK by halfway through the century, policies are still only making changes at an “incremental” level.

It highlights that despite the CCC setting out 25 ‘headline policy actions’ for the year ahead in 2018, only one has been delivered in full, while 10 of the required actions have shown no progress at all.

Similarly, only seven out of 24 signs of underlying progress, such as improvements to building insulation and the market share of electric vehicles, were on track in 2018.

The CCC claims the foundations set out in the Clean Growth Strategy have not been developed into a cohesive approach able to deliver “even the existing carbon budgets” and warns the policy gap has widened in the last year as higher projections of future emissions have eclipsed the positive effects of any new policies.

The group suggests despite the Treasury showing leadership in ending the practice of installing gas heating in new homes in the the 2019 Spring Statement, it emphasises it must take action on using strategic levers such as public spending and taxation to reduce emissions across the economy.

It says the treasury’s planned review of the distribution of costs for going net zero is a chance to ensure that incentives support low carbon choices and that funding is correctly aligned with climate goals.

The CCC claims the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has been too slow in developing plans for essential technologies such as carbon capture and storage and hydrogen, as well as deploying more onshore wind, which it says could significantly cut energy bills and emissions.

The report criticises the government’s planned 2040 phase-out of internal combustion engine cars as being too late and vague – it advises that a date closer to 2030 would save drivers money, slash air pollution levels and work towards the 2050 net zero goal.

The CCC highlights a number of ways in which it believes the government should step up its delivery approach, including embedding net zero policy across all levels and departments of government, implementing more business-friendly policies, providing a clear direction for the future and outlining a simple and investable set of rules and incentives.

It also notes the public must be engaged in the challenge and both policy and low carbon products should be designed to reflect this.

A Government spokesperson said: “As the CCC recognises, we are the first major economy to legislate for net zero emissions, have cleaned up our power sector, cut emissions faster than any G7 country while growing the economy, championed adaptation and set a strong example for other countries to follow.

“We know there is more to do and legislating for net zero will help to drive further action. We’ll set out plans in the coming months to tackle emissions from aviation, heat, energy, agriculture and transport as well further measures to protect the environment from extreme weather including flood protection and nature restoration.”

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