Lack of action could derail the UK’s low-carbon economy, warns CCC

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has warned plans to move the UK to a low-carbon economy are in danger of being derailed by a lack of action from the government.

In a new progress report out today, the committee said the lack of movement from Whitehall on this issue is making it difficult for businesses and the UK public to fully grasp the opportunities of the transition.

The report adds the progress made to date on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the resilience of energy, transport and water to severe weather is in danger of stalling, unless the government develops new plans.

According to the report, emissions reductions have been largely confined to the power sector since 2012, while emissions from transport and the UK’s building stock are actually rising.

And 10 years after the 2007 floods important lessons remain, and the risks of surface water flooding in our towns and cities have still not been tackled.

‘The impact of climate change on our lives and those of our children is clearer than ever,’ said CCC chair, Lord Deben.

‘The UK has shown global leadership on climate change, but progress will stall at home without urgent further action. New plans, for a new parliament, are needed as a matter of urgency to meet our legal commitments, grasp the opportunities offered by the global low-carbon transition, and protect people, businesses and the environment from the impacts of a changing climate.’

To this end, the CCC has called on the government to publish the emissions reduction plan.

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The report states the plan must ‘address the gap between parliament’s agreed targets and the impact of existing policies’, including accelerating the uptake of electric vehicles and set out a strategy for deploying carbon capture and storage technology.

It also calls on ministers to strength the UK’s National Adaptation Programme (NAP) in the first half of 2018.

The new programme, which drives action to prepare for climate change impacts, must address priority areas: flood risks to homes and businesses, risks to the natural environment, including to soils and biodiversity, and risks to human health and wellbeing from higher temperatures.

The former leader of the Conservative Party, Lord Michael Howard, said the CCC report is a ‘welcome confirmation that Britain has nothing to fear economically from reducing our carbon emissions’.

‘We have been the most successful of the G7 economies in the 25 years since the Rio Earth Summit, and that should give the government confidence in setting out the next set of policies as the committee recommends,’ said Lord Howard.

‘The agenda for this parliament is going to be dominated by the process of leaving the European Union, which I believe will be positive for Britain. As we do so, continuing our success story on climate change can only be to our advantage in a world where many other countries are also looking to grow their economies while reducing carbon emissions.’

‘Greater clarity needed’

Responding to the report, the executive director of the Aldersgate Group, Nick Molho, said: ‘If the UK is to significantly cut its emissions and modernise its buildings, energy and transport infrastructure in the next 15 years, the private sector must urgently understand the scale of the UK’s ambitions and the market arrangements under which it can invest in that infrastructure.

‘Greater clarity is particularly needed on the policies that will drive emissions reductions in domestic and commercial buildings,’ he added.

‘The EU referendum and recent general election have resulted in some understandable delay in developing such a plan for businesses and investors. However, if low carbon infrastructure is to be delivered on time, at the lowest possible cost and in a way that grows UK supply chains, the government must deliver on the minister’s intention to publish the Clean Growth Plan when parliament returns from the summer recess.’

While the director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), Richard Black, commented: ‘For the first time in its annual progress reports, the committee has spelled out just how successful Britain has been in decoupling carbon emissions from economic growth – and this real-world evidence should nail once and for all the canard that cutting emissions will harm our economy.

‘However, the progress we’re seeing now is the result of policies enacted under the coalition, and it’s clear that since the 2015 election the government has been treading water. Unless ministers get on with setting new decarbonisation policies for the power sector, heating and transport, progress will stall and the UK will lose its leadership position,’ said Mr Black.

‘Investors are ready and willing to put money into Britain’s low-carbon future – they just need clear, unequivocal signals from government. And given the economic benefits of decarbonisation, one might ask – what are ministers waiting for?’

A spokesperson for the government said they intend to publish the Clean Growth Plan after parliament returns from the summer recess.

‘The government is a world leader in tackling climate change and committed to meeting the UK’s targets set under the Climate Change Act 2008. We have cut emissions by more than a third while growing the economy by over two thirds, and through our industrial strategy continue to support our burgeoning low carbon sector which is helping deliver high-skilled jobs across the country,’ added the spokesperson.

Photo by Lars Plougmann

Jamie Hailstone

Jamie Hailstone

journalist

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