The UK’s climate credibility is at risk because of delays to a host of strategies in the run up to COP26 climate summit in November, the UK’s Committee on Climate Change said in two assessments June 24.
The prime minister’s Ten-Point Plan was an important statement of climate ambition, but it has yet to be backed with firm policies, the influential advisory body said.
“There is still a window to make comprehensive plans and demonstrate leadership at home and to a global audience, but the government is taking a high-stakes gamble to focus everything on a new Net Zero Strategy in the autumn to achieve that,” it said.
The committee called for a Net Zero Test to ensure that all government policies, including planning decisions, are compatible with UK climate targets.
Delayed plans must be delivered swiftly on heat in buildings, surface transport, aviation, hydrogen, biomass and food it said, while plans for the power sector, industrial decarbonization, the North Sea, peat and energy from waste must be strengthened.
On adaptation, meanwhile, only five of 34 sectors assessed by the CCC had shown progress in the past two years, while the National Adaptation Programme for England had yet to develop preparedness for even a two-degree Celsius rise in global temperature.
Here the committee called for restoration of 100% of upland peat by 2045, with a ban on rotational burning, an acceleration in efforts to address overheating in homes, and creation of a strong emergency resilience capability against climate shocks, learning from the COVID-19 response.
“There is a genuine gulf now between what the government has committed to, and action on the ground,” the CCC’s Chief Executive Chris Stark said in a BBC radio interview.
Stark listed delays to strategies on decarbonizing homes and buildings, to the Treasury’s net zero review to the transport decarbonization plan and to a hydrogen plan.
“There is a pattern here of strategies that are late, and when we do see them they are short of the required ambition to get us on track for the targets the Prime Minister has set,” he said.
The committee estimated UK emissions fell by around 13% in 2020 to 435 MtCO2e, with the vast majority of the fall associated with reductions in emissions from surface and air transport.
While some of this change could persist, much is already rebounding with HGV and van travel back to pre-pandemic levels, while car use, which at one point was down by two-thirds, is now just 20% below pre-pandemic levels, the CCC said.