‘We have to be realistic’: Government dismisses CCC concerns over Britain’s net zero progress

The government has told the Climate Change Committee (CCC) that “we need to be realistic” about Britain’s route to net zero emissions, in response to the independent advisory body’s scathing criticism of the lack of progress on decarbonization and green policy ambition in recent years. last year.

In a 218-page dossier today addressing the CCC’s criticisms and recommendations, the Government reaffirmed its continued commitment to the UK’s net zero emissions target, and is confident it will meet all will meet the UK’s interim carbon budget targets.

But while the UK government has praised the progress Britain has made in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and ramping up renewable energy sources over the past decade, the government re-emphasized the need for a more ‘pragmatic, proportionate and realistic’ approach of net zero, avoiding imposing costs on consumers.

“This means we should not follow the CCC’s recommendations on policies that force families to make costly and burdensome changes to their lifestyles,” Claire Coutinho, secretary of Energy Security and Net Zero, wrote in the report’s foreword from today.

The government also confirmed today that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary James Cleverly both plan to attend COP28, with Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary Graham Stuart leading the UK delegation to the two-week talks. The government has also confirmed this separately BusinessGreen that Coutinho will attend the UN climate summit.

The update came as the government rejected a number of recent policy recommendations from the CCC, including several proposals relating to tax, transport, governance and controversial plans for a new coal mine in Britain. It also declined to provide an assessment of the emissions impact of a wave of recent green policy rollbacks announced by Sunak.

Despite warnings from the CCC and others that Britain had fallen behind its international competitors in the drive for net zero emissions, Countinho reiterated her mantra that Britain remained a “world leader in tackling climate change”.

“We have exceeded every emissions reduction target to date and have decarbonized faster than any other major economy,” she pointed out. “Make no mistake: this government is committed to seizing the opportunity for a greener future for our green and pleasant country and is confident it will meet our future emissions targets.”

Each year the CCC is legally required to submit a report to Parliament assessing Britain’s and government’s progress towards its statutory climate targets. This summer’s edition was particularly critical, saying that confidence in achieving the government’s 2030 and beyond targets had fallen ‘significantly’ over the past 12 months, and that Britain had lost its global leadership position in net had lost no load.

The government has also faced criticism for its recent wave of green policy rollbacks on fossil fuel sales, gas boilers and energy efficiency standards, which the CCC warned in a separate letter earlier this month could mean meeting the UK’s net zero target would become “more difficult”. and risked burdening consumers with higher energy and fuel bills due to long-term dependence on fossil fuels.

The CCC has warned that without more detailed roadmaps and an increase in policy ambition, Britain risks exceeding its statutory carbon budgets for the mid-2030s and beyond. But the government today again insisted it would achieve all its objectives, despite not providing any new evidence or models to support its claims.

It also today rejected a request from the CCC to provide a more detailed overview of the emissions impact of the recent wave of policy changes and how they could affect Britain’s future carbon budgets. The government said it is “not appropriate nor a requirement to update and publish a revised version of the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan whenever there is a change in economic data, a policy or a wider factor”.

In today’s wide-ranging response to the CCC, the government struck a similar tone to that adopted by Sunak and his ministers in recent weeks, when they stressed the need for “a common sense approach and a fairer debate about how we go to net zero’.

Coutinho characterized the government’s approach as “one that does not stop people from enjoying things like eating meat or flying abroad on holiday, and that does not force the public to make costly changes to their car or boiler at a time when the pressure on the cost of living is so high. high”.

The CCC was therefore today rejected by the government on a number of other policy suggestions, including calls to use taxes to encourage greener travel habits, establish a global UK climate envoy, publish a roadmap for decarbonising iron and steel, further restrictions on new coal mine developments, and strengthening climate compatibility testing for new oil and gas drilling projects.

The government also emphasized that it would “not ban new oil and gas in the North Sea,” arguing that domestic production would “reduce the need for expensive foreign imports, which bring higher emissions and leave us at the behest of foreign regimes”.

And it rejected calls from the CCC to bring forward its final decision on the use of hydrogen to heat homes from 2026 to provide greater clarity for the market and investors, although it admitted that heat pumps and heating networks are likely to be the main means would be to decarbonize it. heating in the medium term.

Yet the government claimed it was still “partially or fully addressing” 85 percent of the CCC’s priority recommendations, as well as “the majority” of the remaining 273 recommendations, which it said underlined its commitment to “expanding economic opportunities.” take advantage of what occurred. of the energy transition and net zero and the value of the CCC’s advice.”

It came as the Government confirmed that its flagship energy bill had officially been passed into law today, which it said would support the achievement of the UK’s net zero targets while helping consumers save an estimated £1 billion on their energy bills by 2050. – A key piece of legislation includes plans to support renewable energy targets, boost competition in the energy market, expand Ofgem’s mandate to include net zero and heat networks, reform regulations for smart appliances and setting up a new licensing framework for, among other things, CO2 storage.

Similar concerns about the government’s commitment to the UK’s net zero emissions, following the recent rollback of several key green policies, were also raised by MPs on Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) earlier this month.

Conservative MP Philip Dunne, chairman of the EAC, today welcomed the government’s response, but said it was “nevertheless disappointing that many of the committee’s specific questions have been left unanswered”, and that there has been no emissions impact assessment of recent policy changes had been published.

“A detailed response showing the impact on future emissions would have helped our examination of the revised deadlines for the phase-out of petrol and diesel vehicles and fossil fuel boilers, and the potential impact of these changes on the emissions reductions needed to achieve net zero emissions. ,” he said.

Businesses, meanwhile, renewed calls for more policy detail and clarity from the government to support their move towards a low-carbon economy, especially for heavy industry and renewable energy.

Rachel Solomon Williams, executive director of green business organization Aldersgate Group, said it was “vital” that Britain maintained its international climate leadership, as she highlighted the benefits in productivity, growth, employment, investment and energy security associated with achieving a net zero climate.

“The net zero transition is a major economic opportunity with the potential to boost prosperity across the country, but this can only be achieved with a commitment to results and policies that provide certainty for investors,” she said. “As international competition increases, inaction and reduced ambition could see Britain miss out on crucial foreign investment.”

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