Britain falling behind in race to Net Zero committee warns

The UK has been warned that it is badly falling behind the pace needed to deliver its plans to deliver a net zero future.

The independent Climate Change Committee (CCC), which advises the UK Government in issues around the climate fight has released a stinging report in which it outlines the current failures to deliver on net zero promises.

It’s study said: “Following last year’s High Court ruling, the UK Government has published the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan (CBDP), providing much greater transparency on its Net Zero plans. However, despite over 3,000 pages of new detail, the Climate Change Committee’s confidence in the UK meeting its goals from 2030 onwards is now markedly less than it was in our previous assessment a year ago. A key opportunity to push a faster pace of progress has been missed.

“UK greenhouse gas emissions have so far fallen 46% from 1990 levels. At COP26, a stretching 2030 commitment was made to reduce them by 68%. In only seven years, the recent rate of annual emissions reduction outside the electricity supply sector must therefore quadruple.”

The CCC warned: “Time is now very short to achieve this change of pace. Glimmers of the Net Zero transition can be seen in growing sales of new electric cars and the continued deployment of renewable capacity, but the scale up of action overall is worryingly slow. The Government continues to place their reliance on technological solutions that have not been deployed at scale, in preference to more straightforward encouragement of people to reduce high-carbon activities. The Committee has again flagged the risks of a policy programme that amongst other things is too slow to plant trees and roll-out heat pumps.

Climate Change Committee, chairman Lord Deben said: “The lesson of my ten years at the Climate Change Committee is that early action benefits the people of this country and helps us to meet the challenges of the coming decades more cheaply and more easily. Yet, even in these times of extraordinary fossil fuel prices, Government has been too slow to embrace cleaner, cheaper alternatives and too keen to support new production of coal, oil and gas. There is a worrying hesitancy by Ministers to lead the country to the next stage of Net Zero commitments.

“I urge the Government to regroup on Net Zero and commit to bolder delivery. This is a period when pace must be prioritised over perfection.”

The committee added that net zero “must return to top billing”.

“In a crucial period for delivering progress, key departments did not deliver on recommendations made by the Committee last year,” The study added. “The remit of the new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero has brought welcome focus to the programme, but progress has not been made on seven of the priority recommendations to BEIS in last year’s progress report. Defra and DLUHC failed to achieve any of the priority recommendations made by the Committee in 2022.

“The UK has sent confusing signals on its climate priorities to the global community. Support for new oil and gas, beyond the immediate increase in gas production demanded by the invasion of Ukraine, and the decision to consent a new coal mine in Cumbria have raised global attention and undermined the careful language negotiated by the UK COP26 Presidency in the Glasgow Climate Pact.”

The CCC added there is a lack of support for decarbonised industry in a new era of global competition. Government has high ambitions for decarbonised steel production but has no clear policy to deliver it. Wider incentives are still needed for electrification of industry. The recent announcement of up to £20 billion funding for carbon capture and storage is welcome, but detail and implementation of these spending plans is still to come.

“Rapid reform to planning is necessary. In a range of areas, the deployment of essential upgrades to the electricity grid and other Net Zero infrastructure is being stymied by restrictive planning rules. The planning system should have an overarching requirement to ensure planning decisions give full regard to Net Zero,” it added.

The Government does not expect to make a strategic decision on the role of hydrogen in heating until 2026, the CCC said. However, it added the Government  must overcome this uncertainty by accelerating deployment of electric heating and pressing ahead with low-regret energy infrastructure decisions.