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‘Time is running out’

Independent climate advisers warn government has been ‘too slow’ to deliver on climate commitments
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Time is running out, warns CCC

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has praised the government for a series of ‘historic climate promises’, but warned ‘it has been too slow to follow these with delivery.’

In a report published today (24 June), the government’s independent climate advisers set out 50 recommendations, including the implementation of a public engagement programme on climate change adaptation.

The report also urges the government to restore 100% of upland peat by 2045, including through a ban on rotational burning, and to build a strong emergency resilience capability for the UK against climate shocks, learning from the Covid-19 response.

‘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.’

Chairman of the Climate Change Committee

Missing the mark

The CCC acknowledges that this ‘defining year for the UK’s climate credentials’ has been marred by uncertainty and delay to a host of new climate strategies.

It finds that those that have emerged have too often missed the mark, and that with every month of inaction, it is harder for the UK to get on track.

The prime minister’s Ten-Point Plan was an important statement of ambition, but it has yet to be backed with firm policies.

The public has not been informed or engaged in the changes that must lie ahead.

‘The government talks a good talk but when it comes to walking the walk they’re failing to deliver. This must be the decade of delivery on climate action and yet we’re stuck with soundbites when what we really need are detailed plans. At the same time we continue to blunder into high carbon choices, failing to be decisive on both ending new oil and gas licencing and cutting emissions from our homes.

‘Time is running out to show true climate leadership ahead of November’s Glasgow climate summit.The Chancellor Rishi Sunak must start by fulfilling his party’s manifesto pledge to back investment in the efficiency and the clean heating of the nation’s buildings, giving them the massive upgrade they so desperately need.’

Policy director at Greenpeace UK

Net Zero and climate risks

The CCC reported on progress regarding the twin climate challenges of cutting emissions to Net Zero and adapting to the climate risks facing the UK.

It presents more than 200 climate policy recommendations, covering every part of government., and concludes the opportunity to implement them ‘is there if the government moves decisively.’

There is still a window to make comprehensive plans and demonstrate leadership at home and to a global audience, the CCC states, but the government is taking a ‘high-stakes gamble’ to focus everything on a new Net Zero Strategy in the autumn to achieve that.

‘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.

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