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Committee on Climate Change: Government Responses to Annual Progress Reports

Volume 666: debated on Tuesday 15 October 2019

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and I wish to inform the House of the laying of the Government responses to the Committee on Climate Change 2019 reports on reducing UK emissions and preparing for climate change.

2019 has been a pivotal year in the fight against climate change. As the scientific evidence of the dangers of global warming continues to mount, and as people of all ages call for urgent action, the message to governments around the world is clear: act, and act now, to protect the future of our planet.

The UK has long been a leader in clean growth, cutting emissions while growing the economy. We were the first to set a long-term emission reduction target in law, under the Climate Change Act (2008), and since 1990 we have reduced emissions by over 40% while growing the economy by more than two thirds. On 27 June, the Government adopted legislation to set a new net zero greenhouse gas emissions target for the UK, to be delivered by 2050. This made the UK the first major economy to set a net zero target in law, ending the UK’s contribution to global warming in three decades.

That target is an immense challenge for the whole of society—but not only is net zero achievable, it can and will be the growth story of the 21st century. We have a thriving low carbon economy, with turnover in the low carbon sector growing more quickly than GDP in 2017, supporting almost 400,000 jobs across the country.

But our success to date is not a reason to delay action, it provides the argument for going further and faster. By taking action to cut emissions we can protect our planet while putting UK businesses at the forefront of the zero carbon revolution, especially as we prepare to embrace the Presidency of COP26 next year.

As well as supporting our emissions reduction efforts, our world-leading Climate Change Act continues to provide a robust framework for strengthening our preparedness to climate change, through our national adaptation programme (NAP).

Today we are also introducing the landmark Environment Bill—the first in over 20 years—which will tackle the twin challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss. The Bill will improve air quality so that our children live longer, restore and recover environmental biodiversity, and move us towards a more circular economy, which will help to ensure Britain can be cleaner and greener for future generations.

Exiting the EU does not change the UK’s commitment to domestic and international efforts to tackle climate change. The new independent office for environmental protection, which this Bill will establish, will work closely with the Committee on Climate Change to ensure climate and environmental legislation is respected once the UK leaves the EU.

In July this year, The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) published their annual Progress Report: “Reducing UK Emissions - 2019 Progress Report to Parliament”; and their biennial “Progress in preparing for climate change”. Today we are publishing Government’s responses to both of these reports, in fulfilment of our requirements under the Climate Change Act.

Government response to “Reducing UK Emissions -2019 Progress Report to Parliament”

The Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) annual progress report, published in July, recognised the progress that has been made, but also set out some tough messages about the need for further action across the economy. This government have heard that message, from the Committee, from businesses, and from people across the whole country.

The Government response to the CCC’s report sets out the action that is being taken across all sectors of the economy, working through the strong frameworks we have established in the clean growth strategy and the industrial strategy. It also reflects the suite of recent announcements we have made in support of our net zero target. In our response published today, we set out further actions that we will take to deliver net zero, and meet our carbon budgets, including:

Ambitious proposals to improve the energy performance of non-domestic buildings, potentially saving businesses around £1 billion per year in energy costs by 2030;

Development of a new, holistic transport decarbonisation plan to step up the pace of progress towards a cleaner, more sustainable and innovative transport network; and

A proposal to establishing new governance arrangements to drive forward cross-government efforts to deliver the net zero target, potentially including a new cabinet sub-committee on climate change.

This builds on what we have delivered over the last year. Since legislating for net zero emissions in the summer, we have announced around £2 billion to support decarbonisation in a range of sectors, including investment in hydrogen and low carbon technology in industry, electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, and projects to accelerate rollout of carbon capture and storage technology.

We recognise the importance of reducing emissions from industry and we have just set out our detailed proposals for our £315 million industrial energy transformation fund which will support industry to invest in energy efficiency and deep decarbonisation technologies.

The latest contracts for difference auction saw contracts awarded to renewable energy projects that will create enough generating capacity to power around 7 million homes, with the costs of new offshore wind projects falling by a remarkable two thirds between the 2015 and 2019 auctions. This demonstrates the scope for advances in technology to deliver unprecedented cost reduction.

And we will set out further detail on how the UK will make progress towards our net zero target in the national infrastructure strategy this autumn.

In addition to our progress at home, the UK remains at the forefront of international action on climate change. In September, we were formally nominated by our international partners to host the vital COP26 climate negotiations in 2020. We intend to use this role to catalyse ambitious global action to cut emissions further, and harness growing momentum to take us closer to delivering the goals of the Paris Agreement.

At the recent UN climate action summit, the Government announced that the UK will double its international climate finance to £11.6 billion in the period 2021 to 2025. In assisting developing countries, we will draw on the breadth and depth of the UK’s expertise to support the transformational and systemic change needed to deliver a net zero world resilient to the risks from climate change.

Government response to “Progress in preparing for climate change”

In July 2019, the CCC published their third progress report on adaptation, their first on the second national adaptation programme (NAP) detailing action from 2018 to 2023. The progress report contains twelve recommendations for Government spanning four of the key themes of the second NAP, published in 2018; the natural environment; infrastructure; people and the built environment, and business, as well as 33 sectoral progress scores, such as water supply, rail, roads, agricultural productivity, amongst others. The CCC highlights areas of good planning and progress as well as areas where they identify the need for further policy development and evidence to support and monitor the success of adaptation.

The Government response mirrors the CCC’s progress report. The headline message is that we have made progress on adaptation and broadly accept the recommendations made by the CCC. We will build on this progress to ensure the country is well prepared to face the challenges a changing climate brings. The CCC’s recommendations will be addressed in our current and future policies and programmes such as through the 25 year environment plan, the Agriculture Bill and Environment Bill, amongst other policy areas across Departments. In particular the Environment Bill, introduced today, will include ambitious legislative measures to take action to address the biggest environmental priorities of our age, many of which are linked directly to climate change.

At the same time we are demonstrating leadership at a global level on the agenda, driving action as co-lead of the resilience and adaptation theme of this year’s UN climate action summit, where a UK co-led call for action has been endorsed by 112 countries and counting.

We remain grateful to the CCC for their scrutiny, analysis and expert advice, which will be more vital than ever as we set the UK on a firm path to net zero. The challenges of reducing our emissions, and preparing for the changes that climate change will bring, are immense but, the rewards of action will be greater still. This Government have listened to the science and the clear message from across society and we are redoubling our efforts to drive down emissions while seizing the economic opportunities at hand, as we lead the world towards a cleaner, greener, net zero future.