UK is off track in meeting its legal targets to cut carbon

Embargo 00.01 Monday 3 February 2020
Paul McNamee Paul McNameeHead of politics020 7630

New tracker launched today will hold government to account on its carbon cutting actions through 2020, ahead of UK hosting COP26 climate conference

The UK is hosting the UN climate summit COP26 in November 2020, the most significant climate gathering since the world made ambitious pledges at the Paris summit in 2015. This is the year when governments have promised to step up and take firm action. 

This is a huge opportunity for the government to showcase its climate actions at home. But the UK is  currently off track in meeting its own climate targets.

Action that leads to a reduction of at least 313MtCO2 equivalent over the fifth carbon budget period (legal targets set for 2028-2032) will have to be taken this year in 2020 for the UK to be on track to meet its own legal net zero goals and provide the necessary diplomatic weight for a successful outcome to COP26.

The think tank Green Alliance today launches a carbon cutting ‘policy tracker’ which will run through the year, in advance of the conference, to judge the effectiveness of government delivery promises and funding announced in 2020 towards meeting targets set.

Despite the UK’s success over the past decade in cutting carbon in the power sector, energy supply is only one part of the UK economy responsible for emissions. Very little has been done to bring down emissions from transport, housing, land use and industry. And government spending is far from the levels needed. The tracker highlights that the government is currently spending only £16.75 billion of the £42 billion a year for the next three years which is needed to tackle the climate and nature emergencies, a gap of £25.25 billion a year.

Green Alliance [1] has identified five policies in 2020 that would cut enough carbon to get the UK on track to meeting the net zero goal. These policies are immediately implementable and should be seen as the start of further ambition from the government:

1. Bring forward the 2040 ban on petrol and diesel cars to 2030 (-98 MtCO2e)
2. Provide at least £1 billion a year additional funding for an ambitious home energy efficiency programme (-96MtCO2e)
3. Introduce new incentives for better product design and reuse (-81MtCO2e)
4. Open up new routes to market for onshore wind and solar (-37MtCO2e)
5. Plant over 27,000 trees every year, restore peatlands and wetlands, and manage soil better (-36MtCO2e)

The tracker provides information on the sources of these calculations for carbon and spending.

Paul McNamee, head of politics at Green Alliance, said:

“The 2020 climate summit is a massive opportunity for the government of the UK to showcase its  leadership to the world on the most pressing issue of our time. This policy tracker will test whether the government can stand up at the end of the year and say it is taking the necessary action and leading by example. 2020 has to be the year we see a huge step change in effective measures if legal targets are not to be missed and for the UK to kick start a decade of transformational climate action.”

Dustin Benton, policy director said:

“The minimum the UK needs to do at home in order to be able to lead a successful climate conference is to get on track to achieving its 2050 net zero goal. We’ve shown it’s affordable and relatively easy to get on track this year. We’ll be tracking the UK’s progress and look forward to celebrating the UK acting to lower its emissions in line with its own net zero law.”

More information
Getting on track to net zero: a UK carbon policy tracker [pdf version]

This tracker will be regularly updated on the following website (to be launched Monday 3 February 2020) as the government announces new policy and spending pledges.

The UK is currently off track in meeting its 4th and 5th carbon budgets (targets for the period 2023-2032) and is also unable to reach its target of becoming a net zero carbon economy by 2050 with current policies.

[1] Green Alliance is an independent think tank and charity focused on ambitious leadership for the environment. Since 1979, we have been working with the most influential leaders in business, NGOs and politics to accelerate political action and create transformative policy for a green and prosperous UK

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