Reports criticise government’s attempt to cut emissions

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A series of reports from the Committee on Climate Change have warned the government is failing in its commitment to cut emissions and develop the UK’s heating policies…

The Committee on Climate Change has produced a series of reports warning the government is not on track to meet its commitment to cut emissions 80 per cent by 2050.

The group said the government should not run before it has proved it can walk, and urged minsters not to adopt strict targets for the moment.

Among the reports published is the ‘UK Climate Action following the Paris Agreement’.

The committee stated in the report: “Do not set new UK emissions targets now. The UK already has stretching targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“The priority for now should be robust near-term action to close the gap to existing targets and open up options to reach net zero emissions.

“The most important contribution the government can make now to the Paris Agreement is publishing a robust plan to meet the UK carbon budgets and delivering policies in line with the plan.”

The government is under pressure to reduce its carbon output, and is aiming for a 1.5C reduction. However, the Committee on Climate Change said this target could be revisited.

Scientific evidence, not politics

Craig Bennett from Friends of the Earth said: “The job of the committee is to offer advice on carbon budgets based on the scientific evidence, not what feels politically expedient.

“What message will it send to the world for Britain, once a climate leader, to give up on one central tenets of the Paris Agreement less than 12 months after it was signed?

“It’s no surprise that the government’s approach to climate policy is failing. A five-year-old could tell you building runways, allowing new open-cast coal mines, and forcing fracking on local communities while doing precious little to support renewables or energy saving isn’t going to help us limit temperature rises to 1.5 degrees.

“But it’s government policy that needs to change and fast, not the targets.”

A committee spokeswoman rejected the criticism from Friends of the Earth. She said: “The CCC is very clear that the priority now is for Government action.

“The CCC welcomes the Paris Agreement. More work needs to be done on how to translate the net zero goal into a feasible, credible long-term target for the UK.”

The committee also warned government plans for heating UK homes are in disarray, with heat pump technology failing to meet expectations. Heating and hot water for buildings make up 40 per cent of energy consumption and 20 per cent greenhouse gas emissions so is a major challenge in reducing emissions.

UK Heat Policy

The report on the ‘Next Steps for UK Heat Policy’ discussed the fact progress has stalled and recommended the government create a new credible strategy if it is to see buildings decarbonise over the next three decades.

The report said the government should prepare for natural gas in homes to be supplanted by hydrogen. This, the committee report said, would mean an overhaul of the gas grid as well as replacement of boilers.  However, carbon capture is expensive, which means plans to develop it have stalled, despite the overwhelming benefits of the technology.

Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive of the UK Green Building Council, said: “At a time when the Government is dragging its heels in ratifying the Paris Agreement, these reports from the Committee on Climate Change present a bleak picture of where we are with our current emissions reduction policies. They highlight an urgent need for us to do more to plug our current policy gap.

“We strongly echo the Committee’s call for a long term framework to reduce the emissions from buildings.

“The UK needs to be building homes which perform as they were designed to, and which will not need to be retrofitted in just 15 years’ time.

“A clear trajectory for Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards is essential to allow businesses to gear up, innovate and deliver against more robust standards.

“We are calling for strong representation of the building sector within the Government’s upcoming Emissions Reduction Plan and Industrial Strategy.

“With half of building emissions reductions policies currently dependent on the EU, these will be crucial to providing long term certainty against the backdrop of Brexit.”

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