NEW infrastructure projects and policy initiatives should be assessed for compliance with the Government’s statutory target for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the Committee on Climate Change said this week.
“Increasingly, all policy and infrastructure decisions will need to be checked against their consistency with the UK's Net Zero target and the need to adapt to the impacts of climate change,” says the CCC’s annual report to Parliament. “Government planning documents should also be reviewed (e.g. Green Book, National Planning Policy Framework) to ensure consistency against the objective.”
The CCC notes that “some commentators” have suggested the creation of new institutions, such as a Net Zero delivery body, and/or a National Investment Bank to ensure progress against the 2050 target. It will consider this further in its December advice on the sixth carbon budget, covering 2033-2037.
Surface transport accounted for 24 per cent of UK carbon emissions in 2019 and the CCC says the sector’s decarbonisation “ambitions must be delivered and extended”.
The Government should impose a “rising mandate for car companies to sell a minimum share of zero-emissions vehicles, reaching 100 per cent by 2032 at the latest”. The target should apply to motorcycles too.
The Treasury should reform Vehicle Excise Duty “to provide stronger incentives to purchase zero emission vehicles and halt the shift towards larger, higher emitting cars”.
More investment should be made in walking and cycling, despite the “mixed levels of success” so far, the CCC noting that walking trips fell throughout the majority of the 2010s and the average number of cycle trips has remained flat over the last decade (distance walked and cycled shows an increase from 2015 to 2018).
The Government should invest in digital technology to facilitate more home working.
The CCC backs e-scooters.
Trials of zero emission HGVs should be conducted “to establish which is the most suitable and cost-effective technology”.
Public transport “still has clear benefits for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality, due to lower emissions per passenger and for its role in reducing road congestion”, says the CCC. But it says Covid-19 “will make a switch from private to public transport more difficult to achieve”.
For rail, the Government should work with Network Rail in “developing plans to deliver the target to remove all diesel trains by 2040”. How this will be achieved for freight is not explained.
Net zero requires a huge increase in electricity generating capacity, including to power electric vehicles. The CCC says plans are “advancing in line with the large scale required”, pointing to contracts to build 6GW of offshore wind in the last year.
Alongside renewables investment, it says “a similarly ambitious policy package should be developed to build supply of and demand for low-carbon hydrogen”.
International aviation and shipping should be formally included in UK climate targets when the sixth carbon budget is set next summer, says the CCC, and net-zero plans developed for them.
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