Ministers are being urged to turn the COVID-19 crisis into a defining moment in the fight against climate change, a statutory body has advised the government.
In its annual report to Parliament, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) provides advice on delivering an economic recovery that accelerates the transition to a cleaner, net zero emissions economy and strengthens the country’s resilience to the impacts of climate change. The committee also argues that the UK has the potential to be an international climate leader ahead of the pivotal COP26 climate summit in Glasgow next year.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) is an independent, statutory body established under the Climate Change Act 2008. Its membership comprises scientists, economists, energy experts and politicians.
The CCC says that important steps have been taken in over the past year on transport, buildings, industry, energy supply, agriculture and land-use. However, the CCC says these steps do not yet sum to meet the size of the net zero challenge, nor do steps taken in recent years deliver adequate progress in addressing even the unavoidable impacts of climate change, let alone the risks of expected levels of global warming of around 3°C above pre-industrial levels
For the first time the committee has set out its recommendations government department by government department. To initiate a green and resilient COVID-19 recovery, the committee calls for its recommendations to be delivered through strong coordination across Whitehall.
For the Department for Transport, the CCC recommends:
CCC Chairman, Lord Deben, said: “The UK is facing its biggest economic shock for a generation. Meanwhile, the global crisis of climate change is accelerating. We have an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address these urgent challenges together; it’s there for the taking. The steps that the UK takes to rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic can accelerate the transition to a successful and low-carbon economy and improve our climate resilience. Choices that lock in emissions or climate risks are unacceptable.”
Chair of the CCC’s Adaptation Committee, Baroness Brown of Cambridge, said: “COVID-19 has shown that planning for systemic risks is unavoidable. We have warned repeatedly that the UK is poorly prepared for the very serious impacts of climate change, including flooding, overheating and water shortages. Now is the moment to get our house in order, coordinate national planning, and prepare for the inevitable changes ahead. The UK’s domestic ambition can be the basis for strong international climate leadership, but the delivery of effective new policies must accelerate dramatically if we’re to seize this chance.”
The committee’s analysis expands on its May 2020 advice to the Prime Minister in which it set out the principles for building a resilient recovery.
In its new report, the committee has assessed a wide set of measures and gathered the latest evidence on the role of climate policies in the economic recovery.
The CCC report highlights five investment priorities for the months ahead:
There are also opportunities to support the transition and the recovery by investing in the UK’s workforce, and in lower-carbon behaviours and innovation.
The CCC’s report finds that, overall, UK emissions reduced by 3-4% in 2018-2019, a cut of 30% between 2008 and 2019.
In 2020, global emissions are expected to fall by a record 5-10% as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a potentially larger fall for the UK. But the CCC said effect is only temporary. CO2 emissions must still be cut consistently year-on-year until they reach net zero globally in order to slow and halt global warming.
The UK’s consumption emissions – emissions embedded in imported products that are produced overseas but consumed in the UK – have fallen and are 18% down from 2008 to 2017, despite growing consumption over the same period.
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