Advisers say that net-zero strategy boosts UK credibility before Cop26 summit, but more is needed to protect low paid
The UK strategy to reach net-zero emissions by the year 2050 is achievable and affordable, according to the government’s official climate advisers. The Climate Change Committee has said that the plan was the most comprehensive in the G20 and had strengthened the position of the UK as it prepares to preside over the Cop26 climate summit.
Greenpeace has blocked Downing Street with a Boris Johnson statue that is covered in oil in protest of drilling at the Cambo oilfield off of the Shetland islands.
The CCC, which is an independent group, said that the strategy was a big step forward from setting targets to the planning their deliveries, but implementation would be a huge task.
The CCC said that the strategy is “very market-led” and focused on technology, from heat pumps to electric cars to low-carbon jet fuel. But it has said that much more action was needed to protect those on low incomes from the costs of the UK going green.
The CCC has also said that the strategy had “nothing to say” on reducing the total amount of meat and dairy people eat or on limiting growth in flying, which has made the hitting of climate targets more difficult and riskier.
This comes after a total of 61 of activists were sitting on roads carrying Insulate Britain banners, and some glued themselves to the road surface. The Metropolitan Police has said that 53 people have been arrested following the Insulate Britain demonstrations occurring in three separate locations across London.
The government has published a research paper on behaviour change but then swiftly withdrew it, saying that it had been put out by mistake. The Prime Minister’s foreword to the strategy said there was not a “hairshirt insight”.
The CCC said there is no specific plan for farming and land, which produces 10% of UK emissions. It said that action was urgently needed, for example immediately ramping up woodland creation, which needs to triple in order to meet government targets.
“Overall, we see this as a big step forward,” said Chris Stark, the CCC chief executive. “The strategy makes big decisions: fully decarbonised electricity by 2035, phaseout of sales of fossil fuel cars by 2030 and [gas] boilers by 2035, and rapid electrification of transport, industry and heating.
“Clearly, it’s a very market-led strategy. It’s noticeable how frequently the government puts the onus on business to invest and bring down the cost to the consumer. Many have criticised low public spending in some areas, but the government seems to be taking a different route. We shall see how that market-led approach fares.”
The net-zero strategy had been repeatedly delayed and was seen as an important test of the UK’s credibility as host of Cop26. The CCC’s report on the strategy concludes:
“It puts forward an achievable and affordable vision that will bring net benefits to the UK. This strengthens the position of the UK presidency ahead of Cop26.”
The government’s ambition for cutting emissions in each sector are broadly similar to those recommended by the CCC, it said. However, the strategy to cut emissions from oil and gas production in the North Sea is less ambitious.
Ministers are more ambitious than CCC recommendations on energy efficiency in homes, but the CCC said their policies were underdeveloped.
The government was heavily criticised over its botched Green Homes Grant scheme and for subsidising only 90,000 heat pump installations over three years, the target is 600,000 every year.
This comes after a living wage increase from £8.91 to £9.50 an hour is to be announced in Wednesday’s budget. By lifting the national living wage to £9.50 an hour, this brings it to the real living costs of those living outside of London, according to an independent campaign group.
A Treasury review published alongside the net-zero strategy said that the costs of inaction on the climate crisis would be greater than the cost of action. But ensuring that poorer people are helped with the upfront costs of low-carbon measures was very important, said Stark.
“The Treasury review spelled out some principles, but it didn’t really conclude how the tax system will be used to support a fair transition.” He said that the Treasury also failed to address how fuel duty, which brought in £37bn in 2020, will be replaced.
The government decided not to support less meat-eating and flying, Stark said. “We would say it makes the task bigger and makes it higher risk if tech doesn’t deliver.” Such behaviour change could also unlock wider benefits such as improved health and wellbeing, the report said.