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The Climate Change Committee's net zero roadmap needs more than the PM’s 10-point plan

The CCC has set out a path for the UK to deliver net zero, but the government still has to put in place the measures and mechanisms to deliver

The CCC has set out a path for the UK to deliver net zero, but the government still has to put in place the measures and mechanisms to deliver, argues Marcus Shepheard

The independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) has set out a pathway for the UK to reach net zero. This came with the CCC’s advice on the 6th carbon budget; an emissions target for the whole UK covering the period from 2032 to 2037.

The government is legally committed to deliver net zero by 2050. To do so, the UK will need to be well on the way to meeting this target by the middle of the next decade.

The CCC has sketched out several routes to get there. Its vision is ambitious, but achievable. To meet it, however, the government needs to fill some big policy gaps – and put in place a plan to ensure those policies can be delivered.

Accepting the CCC’s advice would represent a step change in ambition for government

Next year the UK hosts COP26 in Glasgow. This will the most significant international climate change meeting since the Paris COP in 2015. It represents the deadline for nations who signed the Paris agreement to formally state emissions reductions targets, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

The government recently signed up to an ambitious NDC, pledging to reduce emissions by 68% from 1990 levels by 2030. It is in line with the CCC’s 6th carbon budget, which pushes the government to be ambitious in its reductions, but it cannot be achieved by existing government policies

The UK has 30 years to get to net zero, with the CCC recommending that 60% of emissions reductions are front-loaded over the next 15. Pursing such an ambitious target will require the government to make big investments in policies up front, but rapid decarbonisation now will build momentum to help the UK eliminate the trickiest 40% of remaining emissions between 2035 and 2050.

To date every government has accepted the CCC’s carbon budget advice, and we expect this to be no different. And this roadmap is a world first. It sets out the most detailed, practical plan for how to decarbonise a country and is a testament to the strength of the CCC as an analytical body.

Delivering the CCC’s net zero roadmap will take much more than the PM’s 10-point plan

The CCC’s roadmap also goes far beyond the prime minister’s recent 10-point plan, which still left the UK a long way off track for its net zero target.

It sets out a timeline to decarbonise electricity generation with a massive expansion of offshore wind and other renewables, to fill the gap left by the phasing out of coal by 2024 and gas by 2033. This would increase our total generation of electricity by over 50%. It also suggests how to tackle the areas where progress has been slowest. For buildings, it proposes that oil boilers need to be gone by 2028 and gas boilers by 2033, replaced by new hydrogen-ready boilers, heat pumps and other investments in home energy efficiency. This requires a flexible approach – to give homeowners choices and retain the ability to adapt for advances in technology.

The CCC expects that technology will be the largest driver of emissions reductions over the next decade, but technological change alone won’t be sufficient to hit net zero – it needs to be supported by new policies which promote changes in behaviour. As we showed in our recent report on net zero, these policies need to be coherent and consistent. This, however, is not currently happening.

The government also has to work out how to pay for all this, although the CCC had some good news on that front. Their estimates of the long-term investment needed have fallen from 1-2% of GDP to less than 0.5% of GDP.

The government will need to focus on delivery

Beyond simply setting the policy, government will actually need to deliver. This will require a coordinated approach that draws together every aspect of government, from transport to trade policy, backed up by serious investment and a willingness by government to take a lead so that others can follow. It will require engagement with and support for local and devolved administrations, industry, and academia. The government will also need to address systemic weaknesses such as poor policy design. And all this will need to be done while maintaining public consent.

The government has taken a decisive stand by committing to targets. The next step is setting out meaningful policies to ensure the targets can be reached.

Climate change
Prime minister
Institute for Government

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