If current policies remain unchanged, the UK will cut carbon dioxide emissions by only about 21% to 23% from 2013 to 2025 – compared with the government’s own targets of a reduction of 31% over the same period, according to the Committee on Climate Change.
While the CCC – the body set up under the Climate Change Act to provide independent advice to ministers on how to meet carbon targets – couches its latest report to the Westminster Parliament in typical civil-service/management speak;
The report states that ‘carbon budgets can be met at affordable cost, but that this will require the strengthening of key policies’ and that ‘that good progress has been made on development and implementation of some, but not all, policies.’
More cogently the Committee – chaired by Lord Deben (a former UK Environment Minister in Thatcher’s government) added:
“While foundations have been laid for the electric vehicle market and for demonstration of carbon capture and storage (CCS), the uptake of electric vehicles has been low, and progress with CCS has been frustratingly slow.
“In other areas, progress has been limited, notably in energy-efficiency improvement in the commercial and industrial sectors and in the uptake of heat pumps. Previous good progress in residential energy efficiency fell away with the new policy regime in 2013.”
And he warns: “Under the current rate of progress future budgets will not all be met. Current policies may only reduce emissions by 21 to 23% from 2013 to 2025, rather than the required 31% reduction.”
Achieving this will require further strengthening of policies, including the improvement to policy design and increased ambition, extended further in time. To make sure the UK meets its future targets, the CCC makes recommendations in the following specific areas:
Residential energy efficiency
Progress in insulating homes plummeted with the introduction of new policies in 2013 (the Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation). For example, over 600,000 cavity walls were insulated in 2012 but only 170,000 in 2013 (because of the high-interest levels charged to home-owners)
Increasing uptake of low-carbon heat is a priority. Despite the fact that the current scheme to incentivise this – the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) – is very generous, take-up of heat pumps has been very low (e.g. only around 1% of spend to date in the non-domestic scheme). Rather than increase subsidy further, the Government should focus on tackling financial and non-financial barriers. This should include extending commitment and funding to the RHI beyond 2016, to reduce policy insecurity and encourage supply chain development, and allowing access to Green Deal finance for renewable heat installations.
There is not much evidence of energy efficiency improvement in the commercial sector despite opportunities to do so. The policy landscape is complex and has mixed incentives. This situation should be simplified so that we lower administrative costs while, at the same time, improving delivery.
Power generation sector
There has been progress on Electricity Market Reform, but there is a high degree of uncertainty about the support for low-carbon capacity beyond 2020. This undermines investment. It should be addressed by setting a carbon intensity target for 2030, together with funding to deliver this and strategies for commercialising offshore wind and carbon capture and storage.
Lord Deben concluded: “Climate-change demands urgent action. The UK is still not on track to meet our statutory commitment to cut emissions by 80%. The longer we leave it, the costlier it becomes. There is no time to lose.”