UK credibility on climate change: ‘rests on government action’

Targets are not results – while the UK government has legislated to deliver net zero emissions by 2050, it must now show it is serious about acting on its legal obligations to both tackle and prepare for a changing climate, says the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) in two new reports: Reducing UK emissions and Progress in preparing for climate change.

UK action to curb greenhouse gas emissions is lagging far behind what is needed, even to meet previous, less stringent, emissions targets, says the CCC in the first, hard-hitting report: ‘targets do not themselves reduce emissions.’ Over the past year, the government has delivered just one of 25 critical policies needed to get emissions reductions back on track, says the Committee. 

In order to meet the UK’s legally-binding emissions targets, the report on reducing emissions recommends that:
  • Net-zero policy is embedded across all levels and departments of government, with strong leadership at the centre – the new Prime Minister will need to lead the UK’s zero carbon transition from day one.
  • Government policies to reduce UK emissions to net zero should be business-friendly – policy should provide a simple, investable set of rules and incentives which leave room for businesses to innovate.
  • The public must be fully engaged in the UK’s net-zero transition – over half of the emissions cuts required to reach net zero require people to do things differently.
  • The UK strongly leads international action to tackle climate change, using its net zero target to encourage increased effort to reduce emissions worldwide.
Meanwhile, action to prepare homes, businesses and the natural environment for a warming world is less ambitious than it was ten years ago, says the second report. Of 33 sectors assessed by the Committee, none show good progress when it comes to managing climate change risk. 

The report suggests that government plans to deal with climate change impacts are insufficient in critical areas such as the natural environment, health, and business. The government should:
  • reward farmers who are working to improve the natural environment; 
  • take steps to protect people from the dangerous effects of overheating in homes, schools, care homes and hospitals, including through the current review of Building Regulations; 
  • require businesses to disclose the financial risks they face from climate change impacts and ensure businesses plan for both risks and opportunities for new goods and services;
  • take positive steps to reduce water consumption; and
  • implement the Environment Agency’s proposed Flood Strategy.

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