A briefing on evolving air quality policies and legislation across the UK, targets, statistics and health and inequality concerns.
Nature and Climate Declaration
The Declaration has been put forward by the Zero Hour campaign group, which has also put forward the Climate and Ecology Bill, introduced in the House of Lords in May 2022. It has been put forward for signature by local councillors, Members of Parliament and representatives of the devolved administrations. The website had 600 signatories on 3 November 2022
The Declaration refers to the Leader’s Pledge for Nature (PDF) which aims to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 and has been signed by 94 Governments, including the UK. It calls on the UK Government to “deal with these critical risks [set out in the Leader’s Pledge] to our heritage, communities and future prosperity” and to do this by:
- Fulfilling our fair share of emissions reductions to ensure that the average global temperature increase will not exceed 1.5°C
- Halting and reversing biodiversity decline by 2030, and
- Delivering a more ambitious and integrated environmental protection and decarbonisation plan.
The Climate and Ecology Bill
The Climate and Ecology Bill [HL] would impose a duty on the government to achieve defined climate and nature targets. This would include introducing a strategy for reducing the UK’s overall contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions to net zero. This would be consistent with limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, meeting commitments given at recent climate summits. The bill would also impose a similar requirement on targets designed to halt and reverse the UK’s overall contribution to the degradation and loss of nature.
The bill would provide for the establishment of a climate and nature assembly, comprising a representative sample of the UK population, to advise the government in creating a strategy that helped meet those goals. It would also give duties to the Climate Change Committee (CCC) and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) including to give advice to the assembly and to evaluate, monitor and report annually on the implementation of the government’s strategy.
A transcript of the Second Reading of the Bill, which took place in the House of Lords on 15 July 2022, is available from Hansard.
The bill is similar to a private member’s bill proposed by Caroline Lucas (Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion) in the 2019–21 parliamentary session. Ms Lucas’s bill was backed by environmental campaign groups though it did not progress to a second reading.
UK policy on climate change
The Government’s main climate change policy document is the Net Zero Strategy (Build Back Greener) which was published on 19 October 2021 (updated April 2022). It sets out policies and proposals for decarbonising all sectors of the UK economy to meet the Government’s net zero target by 2050, which is a legal requirement established under The Climate Change Act 2008.
The Net Zero Strategy builds on the Government’s 10 point plan for a green industrial revolution which was published on 18 November 2020. It focuses on the following areas:
- advancing offshore wind
- driving the growth of low carbon hydrogen
- delivering new and advanced nuclear power
- accelerating the shift to zero emission vehicles
- green public transport, cycling and walking
- ‘jet zero’ and green ships
- greener buildings
- investing in carbon capture, usage and storage
- protecting our natural environment
- green finance and innovation
Implementing climate change policy
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) is an independent body established under the Climate Change Act. The CCC website sets out how climate change policy is implemented across Government:
Tackling the causes of climate change, and adapting to its impacts, touches on all aspects of the economy. The Government has created a Cabinet Committee on Climate Change chaired by the Prime Minister. This is supported by subcommittees to ensure climate change decision making is across Government. It is for all government departments to include climate change in its thinking when making policy decisions. The two main UK government departments responsible for climate change are:
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) – leading on policy for reducing emissions (mitigation). BEIS is responsible for ensuring secure energy and promoting action on climate change in the UK and internationally.
- Department for Environment and Rural Affairs(Defra) – leading on domestic adaptation policy (adaptation). Defra is responsible for developing the National Adaptation Programme to address the risks set out in the most recent UK Climate Change Risk Assessment.
The CCC is responsible for providing advice to Government on tackling climate change and monitoring the Government’s progress on reaching net zero.
Its latest statutory progress report to Government was published in June 2022. It provided recommendations based on a new monitoring framework and set out the following headline statements:
- The UK Government now has a solid Net Zero strategy in place, but important policy gaps remain.
- Tangible progress is lagging the policy ambition.With an emissions path set for the UK and the Net Zero Strategy published, greater emphasis and focus must be placed on delivery.
- Successful delivery of changes on the ground requires active management of delivery risks.Not all policies will deliver as planned. Some may be more successful than expected, while others will fall behind.
- Action to address the rising cost of living should be aligned with Net Zero.There remains an urgent need for equivalent action to reduce demand for fossil fuels to reduce emissions and limit energy bills.
- Slow progress on wider enablers.The Net Zero Strategy contained warm words on many of the cross-cutting enablers of the transition, but there has been little concrete progress.
- The UK must build on a successful COP26.The UK presidency of the UN COP26 climate summit in Glasgow last November successfully strengthened long-term global ambition and introduced new mechanisms to support delivery. It should prioritise making those new mechanisms work in practice and strengthening global 2030 ambition, while preparing for a focus on climate finance and adaptation at COP27 in 2022 and COP28 in 2023.
- Climate change: An overview is a collection of overarching climate change-related parliamentary briefings and publications.
- Climate change explainers are short briefings providing impartial analysis and explanation on climate topics. They includeclimate change fundamentals such as UK and global emissions, the science, and the history of international negotiations. They also provides a guide to understanding climate change policymaking and developments in approaches to addressing climate change.
UK policy on nature
The UK Government has produced a number of action plans and strategies on biodiversity. A Biodiversity Action Plan 1992-2012 was published in 1994. This was followed by Biodiversity 2020 a strategic plan for biodiversity in England, published in 2011. The 25 Year Environment Plan, published in 2018, included a commitment to publish a new strategy for nature, building on the existing strategy.
In addition, the Government committed in September 2020 to protect 30% of UK land by 2030 as part of the UK’s commitment to the Leaders Pledge for Nature. It would do so by designating and protecting 4,000 km2 of new land in England (nature conservation is for the most part a devolved matter).
The Environment Act 2021 included several new policies aimed at improving biodiversity in England including:
- A 10% biodiversity net gain requirement for development
- A target on species abundance for 2030
- A requirement for Local Nature Recovery Strategies and the creation of a Nature Recovery Network
In addition, under the Act, the Government has proposed a number of further 2042 targets for biodiversity in its consultation on environmental targets, which closed in June 2022:
- increase species abundance by at least 10% by 2042, compared to 2030 levels.
- improve the England-level GB Red List Index for species extinction risk by 2042, compared to 2022 levels.
- create or restore more than 500,000 hectares of a range of wildlife-rich habitats outside protected sites by 2042, compared to 2022 levels.
Environmental targets where due to be published, as set out in the Environment Act 2021, by 31 October 2022. However, the Government has missed this target, as explained in a statement from Defra.
- Commons Debate Pack on Protecting and restoring nature at COP15 and beyond published July 2022. This includes detail of progress in the run up to the COP15 biodiversity conference, information on UK policy together with UK and international biodiversity statistics. A transcript of the debate which took place on 14 July 2022 is available from Hansard.
- The UK’s footprint on global biodiversityEnvironmental Audit Committee report published January 2022. Government response published February 2022
- In Focus briefing on biodiversity from the House of Lords Librarypublished April 2021
- PostNote on effective biodiversity indicatorspublished May 2021
- PostBrief on biodiversity indicators published May 2021
- Biodiversity in the UK: Boom or Bust? Environmental Audit Select Committee report June 2021. Government response published September 2021
- Wildlife Trusts Combatting the Climate and Nature Emergency
 HL Library Briefing, Climate and Ecology Bill [HL]: HL Bill 13 of 2022-23, 11 July 2022
This briefing paper provides an overview of flood and coastal risk management in the UK, including which bodies manage risk, current policy on flood risk management, and how flood funding works.
Improving energy efficiency can help reduce energy bills, cut carbon emissions and improve energy security. How is the UK doing with efforts to increase energy efficiency?