UK Lags Behind Climate Goals, Warn Advisors
Climate advisors have blasted the UK government for falling behind its promises to cut emissions and tackle climate change.
The UK became the first G7 economy to legislate for a net-zero emissions target by 2050 last month, and is vying to host the UN’s annual climate talks next year. However, a lack of policies means the country is struggling to progress towards its goals, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said in an annual report on July 10.
The report’s authors last year set out 25 emissions-cutting policies for the government to adopt in key sectors such as power, industry, construction, agriculture, forestry, land use and waste. But twelve months on, only one of them has been implemented in full.
“Climate change adaption is a defining challenge for every government, yet there is only limited evidence of the present UK government taking it sufficiently seriously,” the CCC said.
As progress stalls, the committee said the UK could even fail to deliver on even its previous, more modest target of reducing emissions by 80% compared with the 1990 level by 2050. Emissions were only 40% lower than in 1990 last year.
The only sector seeing progress is the power industry, which cut its emissions for the fifth year in a row in 2018, by 10%, driving a 2% reduction in overall UK emissions.
The government has set out new goals in recent months for phasing out coal, while continuing policies designed to support renewables. Coal’s share of power generation dropped to 5% last year, down from 40% in 2012, which the CCC said demonstrated that “significant success” could be achieved with the right policies.
However, the CCC said the government was lagging behind in key areas such as developing carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, increasing onshore wind capacity and trialling low-carbon hydrogen as a power source. The country is not doing enough to prepare itself for the consequences of climate change either, it said, such as rising sea levels and extreme weather.
The committee called on the government to draw up detailed policies to increase energy efficiency in industry by 20% by 2030, bring forward its ban on petrol and diesel cars from 2040 to 2030-2035 and make plans to have a CCS facility in operation by the mid-2020s, among other priorities for the coming year.
Decarbonisation in hands of government: trade body
Energy & Utilities Alliance CEO Mike Foster said it was the government's job to use all of the ‘tools’ and energy sources available to reach its goals, including CCS – "a valuable addition to the suite of technologies, as a means of allowing the UK to use flexible energy sources to meet seasonal variations, dictated by the UK climate whilst supporting carbon reduction."
Hydrogen is another such tool, he said. "Decarbonising heat must be affordable and with minimal disruption. The gas infrastructure is already in place for nearly 9 out of 10 homes. Using low or zero carbon gas in our homes – such as biomethane or hydrogen – will deliver the carbon reductions we need to make without any major disruption to peoples’ lives,” he said.
In the medium term, industry is assessing if blending hydrogen, of up to 20% by volume with natural gas could be an "easy way" to reduce CO2 emissions from home cooking and heating, without changing customer appliances. This could save 6mn mt/yr of CO2. he said.
"“The strong case for hydrogen is well underway. The question now is will the industry led research translate into government action and a real-world energy revolution? Or will political complacency put the 2050 target out of reach?”