Time is running out for realistic climate commitments, CCC progress report warns

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Despite UK emissions falling to nearly 50% of their 1990 levels during the 2020 lockdown, the journey to Net Zero is far from half completed, Climate Change Committee warns in their annual assessment of UK progress in reducing emissions and biennial assessment of progress in adapting to climate change.

This double report – ‘Progress in reducing emissions’ and ‘Progress in adapting to climate change’ provides an overview of the UK Government’s progress to date on reducing emissions and adapting to climate change.

Together, the assessment offers more than 200 policy recommendations covering every part of Government.

According to the report, it is ‘absolutely critical’ that new Net Zero strategy is published before the COP26 climate summit, with clear policy plans, backed fully by the Treasury.

It must be accompanied by a commitment to prepare the country for the serious climate risks facing the UK, as the next cycle of adaptation planning begins.

Lord Deben, Chairman of the Climate Change Committee, commented on the report: “We are in the decisive decade for tackling climate change. The Government must get real on delivery.

“Global Britain has to prove that it can lead a global change in how we treat our planet. Get it right and UK action will echo widely. Continue to be slow and timid and the opportunity will slip from our hands. Between now and COP 26 the world will look for delivery, not promises.”

When examining progress on Net Zero, the report states that sustained reductions in emissions require sustained Government leadership, underpinned by a strong Net Zero Strategy.

Key findings include:

  • A Net Zero Test would ensure that all Government policy, including planning decisions, is compatible with UK climate targets.
  • An ambitious Heat and Buildings Strategy, that works for consumers, is urgently needed.
  • Delayed plans on surface transport, aviation, hydrogen, biomass and food must be delivered.
  • Plans for the power sector, industrial decarbonisation, the North Sea, peat and energy from waste must be strengthened.
  • The big cross-cutting challenges of public engagement, fair funding and local delivery must be tackled.

When examining progress on adaptation on climate change, the report states that progress in adapting to climate change is not keeping up with the increasing risks facing the country.

Only five of 34 sectors assessed by the Committee have shown notable progress in the past two years, and no sector is yet scoring highly in lowering its level of risk.

The Committee provides 50 recommendations, including:

  • Restore 100% of upland peat by 2045, including through a ban on rotational burning.
  • Bring forward proposed plans to address overheating risk in homes through Building Regulations.
  • Make the Government’s next round of the Adaptation Reporting mandatory for all infrastructure sectors.
  • Build a strong emergency resilience capability for the UK against climate shocks, learning from the COVID-19 response.
  • Implement a public engagement programme on climate change adaptation.

2021 Progress Report to Parliament can be found from the Climate Change Committee website.