The UK government has once again failed to come forward with sufficient policies to meet the ambition of its climate goals, according to the Climate Change Committee (CCC).
Across nearly 500 pages examining the government’s net-zero and adaptation targets, the climate advisers spell out the gap between aspirations and reality in a pair of new reports. Only four of 21 key decarbonisation areas outlined in the report have seen sufficient ambition and only two have adequate policies in place for cutting emissions, according to the CCC. None of the 34 adaptation priority areas it identifies have seen strong progress.
The committee says it is “disappointing” that many “vital and long-promised plans”, concerning everything from clean transport to hydrogen, have yet to emerge.
With the UK preparing to host the COP26 summit in Glasgow, the CCC warns that the government’s backlog – which includes an overarching plan for achieving its net-zero emissions target – could harm its credibility and push its climate goals out of reach.
The UK’s climate ‘policy gap’
The committee has released two progress reports simultaneously, as part of its statutory duties under the UK’s Climate Change Act.
The first report focuses on efforts to reduce emissions in line with the UK’s legally binding five-yearly carbon budgets, which set out the path to its target of net-zero emissions by 2050.
This document draws extensively on the CCC’s proposed pathway for achieving the “sixth carbon budget” for 2033-37, a “stepping stone” of emissions cuts on the way to net-zero. The budget was voted into law only two days before the report’s release. It also comes a year after another CCC progress report that similarly warned of insufficient action from the government on tackling climate change.
The second report assesses progress on climate adaptation. While it has been two years since such a report was published, the new one comes shortly after a risk assessment from the committee that warned adaptation was being “underfunded and ignored”.
UK emissions dropped by a record 13% last year, from 499m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) in 2019 to 435 MtCO2e, according to the committee. This is larger than the 9% drop reported by the government because it includes CCC estimates of the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions. For the first time, the government intends to include these emissions in its sixth carbon budget, but they do not yet appear in its official emissions data.
For more from The Mint on environmental issues, check out Roland Kupers‘ article on how complexity characterises climate policy questions.