UK: Parliamentary Science and Technology Select Committee Publishes Report Criticising Governments Climate Change Progress

The UKs Parliamentary Science and Technology Select Committee has published a report addressing the UK’s progress towards meeting its carbon reduction targets. The report criticises recent policy changes implemented by the current government, as well as states the necessary technological changes that should be implemented if the UK is to meet future carbon reduction targets.

The UK has historically been at the forefront of global carbon reduction. As party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UK has committed to restricting global average temperatures to ‘well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels’ and pursue ‘efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels’. The UK was the first country to introduce legally binding emission reduction targets and has recently amended these targets to net-zero by 2050, the first G7 country to do so. Furthermore, since 2000 the UK has achieved greater decarbonisation than any country in the G20. It has met all the carbon budgets to date and is on track to meet the next one regarding 2018 – 2022. Despite this clear success, the Committee has warned that the UK is not on track to meet the fourth and fifth carbon budgets.

Government has delayed or cutback a number of key low-carbon technologies supporting mechanisms. This includes lowering or even scrapping ‘plug-in grants’ for low emission cars, closing the ‘feed-in tariff’ for low-carbon power generation and restricting a variety of schemes that would improve on the energy usage of households. The report states a number of key recommendations that should be implemented in order for the UK to get back on track regarding its carbon reduction targets:

Transport – The sector is now the largest emitting in the UK and it is stated that Government should bring forward the banning of new convention cars and vans to 2035 at the latest (this including hybrid engine vehicles). A low-emissions vehicle transport system should be developed reducing vehicle numbers and promoting public transport.

Heating and Energy Efficiency – Domestic, commercial and industrial heating now accounts for a third of the UKs emissions. The Government must urgently develop a clear strategy regarding the carbonisation of heating, as well as improve energy efficiency measures including improving insulation of such buildings.

Power Generation – Power generation has seen rapid decarbonisation in the UK, now emitting only 15% of emissions in 2018. However, the Committee states that even greater improvements can be met. Strong policy support must be implemented for new onshore wind power and large-scale solar power where there is local support and project cost-savings to consumers.

The report also highlights other areas where clearer Government support is needed including improving market regulation, clarifying the roles local authorities have in decarbonisation and the need for greenhouse gas removal if the UK is to meet the net-zero emission by 2050. Whilst the UK has been at the forefront of decarbonisation, there is now a clear risk that the UK fails to meet its mandatory carbon budget targets due to poor Government decision making.

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Full report published by the Science and Technology Select Committee, available: