The Climate Change Committee (CCC) is an independent, statutory body established under the Climate Change Act 2008. Its purpose is to advise the UK and devolved governments on emissions targets. It also reports to Parliament on the progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

In June 2021 the CCC published its latest Progress report to Parliament which provided its annual assessment of the UK’s progress in reducing emissions, and its biennial assessment of progress in adapting to climate change. The report is divided into three main parts which can be downloaded using the following links:

The CCC webpage also contains a section on news and insights which include a series of shorter explanatory articles and links to videos on different climate change topics.

The report welcomes the Government’s decision to adopt the new emissions targets in the Sixth Carbon Budget. However, the report also identified areas where greater pace from Government was required:

In assessing the UK’s progress in the last year, we acknowledge the increase in the scale of Government efforts. But progress is not yet in step with the urgency of the challenge:

  • Effective policies must be developed at greater pace. The path to Net Zero requires a rapid scale-up in low-carbon investment and low-carbon choices across the economy. Government must lead that change with more urgency than we have seen so far. Many vital and long-promised plans, such as the Heat and Buildings Strategy and the Treasury’s Net Zero Review, have been delayed by a year or more. As a result, there is a large policy gap: credible policies for delivery currently cover only around 20% of the required reduction in emissions to meet the Sixth Carbon Budget.
  • The Government has made significant commitments, but there are still important gaps in ambition. Where ambitions have been set over the last year, they have tended to be a significant step up. Many are now aligned with the path to Net Zero (e.g. 40 GW offshore wind by 2030, phasing out petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030). However, gaps remain in the Government’s stated ambitions (e.g. on diets, aviation demand, waste, low-carbon heat networks), while some announcements fall short of what is likely to be needed (e.g. on peatlands, heat pumps, carbon capture and storage). Together these imply a significant ambition gap: current Government commitments that align to the Committee’s published pathways cover less than half of the emissions reductions to 2035
  • Efforts must be increased markedly, especially in the lagging areas. There are signs of a multi-speed approach within Government to raising ambition and putting in place effective policies. Some departments (e.g. Defra, MHCLG, but also parts of BEIS and the Treasury) are lagging behind others and appear timid in their approach. The path to Net Zero requires high ambition and an effective policy framework in all areas.

Revised emissions targets

In April 2021, the Government announced that it had set new emissions targets in line with recommendations from the CCC. The announcement stated that:

The UK government will set the world’s most ambitious climate change target into law to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels, it was announced today (Tuesday 20 April).

In line with the recommendation from the independent Climate Change Committee, this sixth Carbon Budget limits the volume of greenhouse gases emitted over a 5-year period from 2033 to 2037, taking the UK more than three-quarters of the way to reaching net zero by 2050. The Carbon Budget will ensure Britain remains on track to end its contribution to climate change while remaining consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature goal to limit global warming to well below 2°C and pursue efforts towards 1.5°C.

For the first time, this Carbon Budget will incorporate the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions – an important part of the government’s decarbonisation efforts that will allow for these emissions to be accounted for consistently.

Net Zero Strategy

On 19 October 2021 the government published Build Back Greener, its Net Zero Strategy policy paper. This sets out how the UK will deliver on its commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050. The paper outlines four key principles that the Government will use in meeting its targets:

1. We will work with the grain of consumer choice: no one will be required to rip out their existing boiler or scrap their current car

2. We will ensure the biggest polluters pay the most for the transition through fair carbon pricing

3. We will ensure that the most vulnerable are protected through Government support in the form of energy bill discounts, energy efficiency upgrades, and more

4. We will work with businesses to continue delivering deep cost reductions in low carbon tech through support for the latest state of the art kit to bring down costs for consumers and deliver benefits for businesses.

press release announcing publication of the policy paper states that the commitments made in the Net Zero Strategy “will unlock up to £90 billion of private investment by 2030, and support 440,000 well-paid jobs in green industries in 2030.”  

Further Reading

Commons Library, Climate change: an overview, 12 October, 2021

A collection of overarching climate change-related parliamentary briefings and publications.

Commons Library, COP26: Briefings for the 2021 conference, 12 October 2021

Briefings about COP26 and climate change including the background to issues such as climate finance to developing countries and emissions trends.

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