From the TUC

Government: don’t let austerity get in the way of climate targets

01 Jul 2015, by in Environment

Like an ominous poetic prelude to the UK’s hottest day of the year, yesterday the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) released its annual Progress Report on preparing for climate change and cutting the UK’s carbon emissions. If the 35°c heat felt in London today makes the ministers in the Department for Energy Climate Change feel a little uncomfortable in their Whitehall offices, the report certainly won’t make things any cooler.

 The summary and recommendations are available here, and here are the full three volumes.

 The CCC is the independent climate change advisory group to the UK government and parliament and is required by the Climate Change Act to report on government progress in meeting climate targets, including the 5 carbon budgets. The first four budgets are set in law (and the base year is 1990):

Carbon budgets
Source: CCC

The CCC monitors both mitigation of climate change and adaption to its existing effects on the UK such as flooding and higher temperatures.

The CCC makes it astoundingly clear that there is significant uncertainly over how the government will meet its 4th budget:

“…what steps will the Government take during this Parliament to make sure that targets to reduce emissions for the 2020s and beyond are achieved in a cost-effective way? Virtually all policies or funding in these areas are due to expire during this Parliament.”

“Without significant new policies progress will fall behind what is required to meet legal obligations through the 2020s.”

(P.9) “Action is needed in this parliament to ensure the pace of emissions reduction accelerates whilst supporting economic growth”.

Strikingly, one of the many dangers of failing to meet the legal obligation cited by the CCC is the effect of higher temperatures on workplace productivity. It is no coincidence productivity is the number one challenge for the UK economy identified in last week’s TUC Budget statement.

The CCC assesses some existing policies as “at risk of failing to deliver” (p. 14) – and even if they do, it warns there is still a significant policy gap (the purple space in the diagram below where no policies to reach the 4th budget targets exist). It warns that CO2 emissions could be more than double the target level if the gap persists and existing policies fail to deliver:

Policy gap
Source: CCC (p15)

This warning to the government could not be clearer: the government needs to act quickly to not only meet its legal targets but also to reassure the public, industrial employers and workers, and potential much-needed investors that the government is taking this seriously.

The CCC outlines 5 priorities for the government if it is going to meet its 4th carbon budget target. One focuses on ensuring the power sector can invest with a 10-year lead time:

“As soon as possible, set the government’s carbon objective for the power sector in the 2020s and extend funding under the Levy Control Framework”

This indicates the CCC, like the TUC, is concerned that the uncertainty presented to key stakeholders regarding low-carbon industrial strategy is stalling plans to deliver sufficient carbon abatement. It is therefore implied that Autumn’s spending review must not neglect the point that it is vital the government can assure industries and investors it will be adequately supporting the transition.

It is no surprise that another key message to government is to invest in infrastructure: the same call made by TUC Senior Economist Geoff Tily last week. It notes:

“Foremost among [infrastructure decisions] is the need for carbon capture and storage (CCS)”.

The TUC remains concerned that the Energy Secretary Amber Rudd just last week was unable to confirm the extent of government support for CCS.

The CCC is clear (see Annex A) that plans to commercialise CCS and join it up with power and industrial infrastructure must be in place by June 2017. In addition it expects the Industrial Roadmaps for all energy intensive sectors to have been turned into action plans within just 12 months. This echoes the TUC’s feeling that we are running out of time to turn the excellent work done on industrial roadmapping into something meaningful for industrial employers, workers and investors. Carbon leakage remains a considerable threat.

On future options and innovation, the CCC is resoundingly direct:

“Many of the technologies that could contribute to meeting the 2050 target are still developing in terms of their cost and performance, the ability of suppliers and financiers to deliver them and the willingness of consumers to adopt them. Public support in these areas should be targeted to areas that the market will not or cannot provide”

The extent to which the market will want or be able to provide innovation investment depends on a loud and clear steer from the government – one which might not even be ready until after the Autumn spending review. That would give the government only 8 months to deliver on its industrial roadmaps for starters.

The deadline for government to respond is 15 October 2015. We do not yet know when the Autumn spending review will take place, nor do we know what, if anything, the Budget will deliver on climate change next week. Following a bad week for the UK’s climate change strategy, we eagerly await the government’s response and urge it to take heed of the CCC’s warnings when it considers what further damaging austerity it will impose at the potential expense of the UK’s commitment to fighting climate change.


2 Responses to Government: don’t let austerity get in the way of climate targets

  1. Regional CCS clusters needed – UK is approaching a carbon policy black hole
    Jul 2nd 2015, 10:28 am

    […] UK is approaching a carbon policy black hole. As Silkie blogged, the Committee on Climate Change advised government that plans to commercialise CCS and join it up […]

  2. 5 essential climate objectives for the Budget
    Jul 7th 2015, 2:33 pm

    […] Europe’s first fully equipped CCS industrial zone – are also looking for support. As the CCC said last week, “Plans to commercialise CCS and join it up with power and industrial infrastructure must be in […]