The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) today published its analysis of the Clean Growth Strategy (CGS), the government’s blueprint for meeting the targets it is legally bound to achieve under the Climate Change Act.
The analysis highlights a worrying gap (of 10-65 MTCO2e) between the government’s existing policies and commitments and the requirements set under the fourth and fifth carbon budgets. To bridge this gap and minimise delivery risks, the CCC says, the government must urgently firm up the policies, proposals and intentions laid out in the Clean Growth
Figure: Policy gap estimates from the CCC analysis for 2030. The graph represents the gap to the cost effective path rather than to carbon budgets.
Here are our summary and observations of what the CCC has said about the sources of this gap:
The UK has seen a steady reduction of its power sector emissions, owing to the gradual phasing out of coal and impressive uptake of renewable energy. Yet, our analysis suggests that there is a clean power gap to be bridged and reliance on nuclear to deliver the power sector goals could be highly risky. The CCC’s report supports this and urges the government to announce, without significant delay, clean power auctions worth £557 million. If prices continue to fall, this amount can comfortably secure the power sector emission targets by 2025.
Acknowledging the rapid fall in costs of onshore wind and solar energy, the CCC also recommends that the government provides clear routes to market for these technologies and sets a cost effective course to 2030.
The CCC highlights housing as an area where more robust policy with clear implementation measures is required. Building efficiency measures have stalled over the past five years, alongside regressive steps to cull policies like the zero carbon homes. This year, the government aims to consult and publish new measures to kick start greater uptake of efficiency measures, particularly in able-to-pay households. It also has an ambition to ensure all homes have an efficiency rating of EPC band C by 2035. This policy is in line with our recent analysis. The CCC states the importance of firming up this ambition through adequate funding for any new measures introduced, which it expects to be fully in force by the end of 2019.
The government is due to publish its ‘Road to Zero’ strategy for reducing emissions from surface transport. The Clean Growth Strategy projects a range of 30-70 per cent of new car sales to be Ultra-Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV) by 2030. The CCC urges the government to aim for the higher end of that range and introduce incentives that secures a rapid uptake of EVs while sustaining support for plug-in vehicles that bring their price on a level with conventional vehicles. The CCC acknowledges the significantly weak fuel efficiency targets set by the EU and recommends the UK to aim well beyond that.
Low carbon heat and CCS
Providing low carbon heat to businesses and households will be a major challenge for the UK over the next decade. The CCC points to an immediate need for supporting the adoption of heat pumps and biomethane as a first step towards tackling it. Over the long run, the report points to the potential to use hydrogen to significantly decarbonise the UK’s heat networks.
It is interesting to note that the CCC is urging the government to invest significantly more in carbon capture and storage (CCS) over the coming years and make it commercially viable over the next decade. In light of the enhanced commitments under the Paris climate agreement, the report states, failure to adopt CCS would make it highly challenging to meet UK’s 2050 climate targets.
The CCC’s report looks at risks emerging from the UK’s departure from the EU, particularly around EU policies that have been instrumental in reducing domestic emissions. It highlights product standards, new vehicle efficiency regulations, the Emissions Trading Scheme and (fluorinated greenhouse gases) regulation as areas where equivalence with the EU, or even surpassing EU standards, would be necessary. Similarly, its analysis identifies the risks associated with lower electricity imports from Europe or delays in nuclear deployment, where measures would have to be put in place to substitute them with additional low carbon generation.
Implications of the Paris climate agreement
Previous reports from the CCC have suggested that the UK does not yet need to alter its climate targets in line with the enhanced ambition agreed in Paris in 2015. This report echoes that but it expects to reassess on the basis of a forthcoming special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the implications of the 1.5 degree ambition, to be published this September.
Overall, the CCC’s review of the Clean Growth Strategy at once lauds the government’s strong commitment to achieving its climate targets while firmly reminding it of the need for new policies and effective delivery. In the current political turbulence, with Brexit shrinking the space for domestic policy creation, the CCC has called on the government to pursue its aims with “vigour, urgency and sustained commitment to ensure further delays do not make the carbon budgets unattainable”.