Long-term costs of failing to meet legally binding climate targets now requires urgent action in areas such as UK heating policy to prevent longer-term pain, warns influential environmental group
The independent Committee on Climate Change says there is an urgent need for the government to firm up details on how it will reduce the carbon footprint of the energy grid and buildings within the next twelve months to ensure long-term environmental ambitions are met.
New findings from the body, which helps review and inform government environmental policy, said that despite welcoming the publication of the UK Clean Growth Strategy, it was concerned that there were still few new detailed policies for reducing emissions over the next decade.
By the time of its next progress report in June 2019, the committee said it wanted to see “concrete policies to secure improvements in residential energy efficiency” and a number of other actions to incentivise decarbonisation in the short- and long-term.
A statement from the organisation said, “Unless action is taken now, the public faces an unnecessarily expensive deal to make the shift to a low-carbon economy.”
The committee argued that the next year would now be crucial in setting out clear policy on national decarbonisation strategy, with four key recommendations being set out to realise these aims.
Among the group’s core recommendations is ending what it calls a “chopping and changing” of government policy, such as the cancelation in recent years of the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and Zero Carbon Homes programmes at short notice.
The committee said, “This has led to uncertainty, which carries a real cost. A consistent policy environment keeps investor risk low, reduces the cost of capital, provides clear signals to the consumer and gives businesses the confidence to build UK-based supply chains.”
Government is also being urged to ensure stricter enforcement of regulation that is reflected in tougher long-term standards around construction and vehicle emissions.
The committee also backed improved government clarity and support for major infrastructure change. It added that it would be impossible to define what technologies for carbon capture and decarbonised heat that is supported by either hydrogen or electrification of the current grid that will be in place by 2050. However, broader support should be made available for a broader array of options and supporting infrastructure.
The report said, “Key technologies should be pulled through to bring down costs and support the growth of the low-carbon goods and services sector.”
Government is also being urged to end a lack of backing for lower cost and low risk options, such as cheap onshore wind, while reversing a withdrawal of incentives for insulating homes.
Committee chairman Lord Deben warned that despite government ambitions to trying and lead global initiatives in tackling climate change, the UK was not on track to meet its emission targets for the next twenty years.
He said, “We recognise that over the last ten years, the government has shown it has the know-how and commitment to drive down UK emissions in the electricity sector by acting early and consistently to avoid costly interventions later.”
“We now have to ensure that the government learns from this experience and presents a programme to tackle emissions right across the economy, including in buildings, transport and agriculture. This action is now urgent in order to meet the UK’s legally-binding climate change targets, and to prepare to fulfil the obligations of the Paris Agreement.”