‘This assessment reveals an alarming lack of progress in meeting our net zero commitments which is not just disappointing – it’s dangerous. We have long backed the Climate Change Committee’s recommendation of a net zero test to ensure all government spending and policy, including in the planning system, are compatible with our climate targets.
‘The government needs to do this urgently, alongside a credible strategy to reach net zero, if it is to close the gap between its ambition and its action. We won’t forget the promises that have been made – and future generations won’t forgive a lack of urgent action.’
Chief executive at WWF
Progress on Net Zero
Lockdown measures led to a record decrease in UK emissions in 2020 of 13% from the previous year.
The largest falls were in aviation (-60%), shipping (-24%) and surface transport (-18%). While some of this change could persist (for example, business travellers accounted for 15-25% of UK air passengers before the pandemic), much is already rebounding (HGV and van travel are back to pre-pandemic levels, while car use, which at one point was down by two-thirds, is only 20% below pre-pandemic levels).
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.
The CCC warns that emissions next year are expected to rebound and that so far, lasting progress in reducing emissions has been narrowly based.
The relative success of decarbonising electricity must continue, but it must be matched with solid commitments to decarbonise buildings, transport, industry and agriculture.
The big cross-cutting challenges of public engagement, fair funding and local delivery must be tackled.
‘The UK is leading in diagnosis but lagging in policy and action. This cannot be put off further. We cannot deliver Net Zero without serious action on adaptation. We need action now, followed by a National Adaptation Programme that must be more ambitious; more comprehensive; and better focussed on implementation than its predecessors, to improve national resilience to climate change.’
Chair of the Adaptation Committee
Progress on adaptation in England
Progress in adapting to climate change is not keeping up with the increasing risks facing the country, the report states.
Only five of 34 sectors assessed by the CCC have shown notable progress in the past two years, and no sector is yet scoring highly in lowering its level of risk.
The National Adaptation Programme for England has not developed national preparedness for even a 2ºC rise in global temperature, let alone higher levels of warming that are possible by the end of the century.
As the reality of the changing climate becomes clear, so does the required response. The CCC states that government must show it has a positive vision for a well-adapted country, with policies and regulations to address all of the key risks set out in the Climate Change Risk Assessment.