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The Committee on Climate Change releases its annual Progress Report to Parliament on reducing UK emissions

25 June 2020

The Committee on Climate Change has released its 2020 progress report just days ahead of ICE’s own State of the Nation on net zero. ICE Policy Manager, Alex Hardy, explores the relationship between the two reports.

The Committee on Climate Change releases its annual Progress Report to Parliament on reducing UK emissions
The Committee on Climate Change has released its 2020 progress report. Image credit: Shutterstock

It’s almost 12 months to the day since the government legislated for the UK to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. It’s certainly been an interesting year, and although we are rightly focused on getting to the other side of the Covid-19 pandemic, the threat of climate change remains at the forefront of our minds.

It's well timed then, perhaps, that the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has just published its annual report to Parliament on the progress of reducing UK emissions. In it, the CCC reviews the UK’s progress in reducing emissions, lessons learnt and identifies climate policy priorities.

Much like our upcoming State of the Nation report, published next week, the CCC’s progress report is published in the context of the pandemic. Accordingly, the report provides important new advice to Government on framing the economic recovery from Covid-19 in a way that both accelerates the transition to net zero and strengthens the UK’s resilience to the impacts of climate change, whilst also delivering economic growth.

These are also key themes of State of the Nation 2020. The CCC’s advice builds on its six key principles for a resilient recovery, which ICE has discussed in a previous blog.

So how is our progress reducing emissions?

The CCC’s message to Parliament is clear. The UK is not making adequate progress in preparing for climate change. While initial steps towards policies have been taken, these steps do not yet measure up to the size of the net-zero challenge. Therefore, the UK must seize the opportunity to make the Covid-19 recovery a defining moment in tackling the climate crisis.

This message is consistent with the CCC’s analysis of the UK’s performance against its Carbon Budgets, that demonstrate the UK is failing to adequately reduce emissions.

In 2020, global emissions are expected to fall by a record 5-10%, with a potentially larger fall in the UK. But this effect of the Covid-19 lockdown is only temporary. A sharp fall in global emissions in 2020 will not address the cumulative problem of rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. CO₂ emissions must be cut consistently year after year until they reach net-zero globally to slow and halt global warming.

Recent falls in UK emissions are dominated by policy-driven progress in the power sector. As the CCC note, while other sectors with weaker policies have made more limited progress, power sector emissions fell 67% from 2008 to 2019 under a well-designed, coherent and effective package of policies to encourage low-carbon investment. This success now needs to be replicated throughout the economy - especially in other infrastructure sectors.

How to repeat this success across the UK infrastructure sector

State of the Nation 2020: Infrastructure and the 2050 net-zero target examines the contribution of the UK’s infrastructure systems to achieving net zero by 2050. It recommends a series of solutions to help overcome the policy challenges of achieving net zero and ensure the UK is well positioned to achieve the target following the pandemic.

Infrastructure is a major contributor to the UK’s greenhouse gases emissions. The infrastructure we are planning and delivering today can take decades to deliver and will be operational well beyond 2050. The infrastructure decisions we make today must be consistent with net zero.

The recommendations financing mechanisms that need to be in place for the net-zero transition. The report also outlines a programme of thought leadership and knowledge sharing that ICE will be coordinating in the lead up to COP26 next year.

We welcome the release of the CCC’s progress report. The critical policy and infrastructure decisions for net zero must be defined in this Parliament. If adopted, the recommendations in State of the Nation 2020 will help to support these decisions and ensure infrastructure contributes positively to achieving net zero.

Related links

  • Alex Hardy, policy manager at ICE