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ISSN 2753-7757 (Online)

Current UK government programmes will miss net zero target


Thermal imaging heat map of house Photo: Shutterstock
The UK continues to have some of the leakiest homes in Europe and installations of insulation remain at rock bottom, notes the CCC in its latest progress report on UK government net zero programmes

Photo: Shutterstock

A new progress report by the independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) has found ‘major failures’ in the UK government’s programmes aimed at delivering net zero.

Last year, the CCC applauded the UK government for setting ambitious targets and launching a new Net Zero Strategy. Policies are now in place for most sectors of the economy; however, the CCC’s latest report has found ‘scant evidence’ of delivery against these headline goals so far.


While there are some ‘bright spots of progress’, the CCC says that the current strategy will not deliver net zero. ‘Credible government plans exist for over a third of the UK’s required emissions reductions to meet the Sixth Carbon Budget in the mid-2030s; with a fair wind we will manage another quarter; and over a third cannot be relied on to deliver the necessary emissions reductions,’ it warns.


The CCC is calling for net zero delivery to be actively managed, with ‘plans based on realistic assessment’. The government should develop contingency plans, such as encouraging reduced consumer demand for high-carbon activities (eg through healthier diets, or curbs to growth in demand for flights), it suggests.


The CCS also notes that there has been ‘slow progress on the cross-cutting enablers of progress’, with the Net Zero Strategy containing ‘warm words on the wider enablers of the transition, but little progress’. It points out that there is no public engagement strategy three years after the net zero target was signed into law; HM Treasury has yet to set out how the full range of costs and benefits of the transition will be shared; comprehensive reform of planning legislation to reflect the UK’s international and national commitments to net zero is required; and the urgently needed Future Homes Strategy has yet to materialise.


UK emissions are now almost half (47%) their 1990 levels, reports the CCC. Emissions rose 4% in 2021 as the economy began to recover from COVID-19 but were still 10% below 2019 levels. ‘Further progress must be led by government policies with clear direction, credible delivery mechanisms and suitable incentives to shape private sector action. In no sector of the economy is this yet complete,’ states the CCC.


The report makes over 300 recommendations for filling out policies over the next year, reflecting the scale of the task at hand as the government moves from strategy to implementation.


The areas of strongest progress are backed and led by well-designed government policy, according to the report. These include the deployment of renewable electricity and the increasing adoption of electric vehicles year by year. However, in other areas, low carbon options remain in their infancy. Policy has not yet begun to guide private sector action on energy efficiency in homes, for example. The government had promised significant public spending in 2019 and committed to new policies last year, but neither has yet occurred, and the UK continues to have some of the leakiest homes in Europe and installations of insulation remain at rock bottom, notes the CCC.


Agriculture and land use have the weakest policies in the CCC’s assessment, despite being vital to delivering net zero and the government’s other goals on food security and biodiversity. Progress in reducing farming emissions has been ‘glacial’, it says, and ‘must be tackled in the new land use framework promised for next year’.


Commenting on the report, CCC Chairman, Lord Deben, says: ‘The UK is a champion in setting new climate goals, now we must be world-beaters in delivering them. In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, the country is crying out to end its dependence on expensive fossil fuels. I welcome the government’s restated commitment to net zero, but holes must be plugged in its strategy urgently. The window to deliver real progress is short. We are eagle-eyed for the promised action.’