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Reducing UK emissions: 2020 Progress Report to Parliament

Chimney emitting air pollution and red sky Print publication

02/07/2020

The Committee on Climate Change’s 2020 report to Parliament calls on the government to redouble its efforts and expands on its May 2020 advice to the UK Prime Minister in which it set out the principles for building a resilient recovery. The report highlights five clear investment priorities:

  1. Low-carbon retrofits and buildings that are fit for the future
  2. Tree planting, peatland restoration, and green infrastructure
  3. Energy networks must be strengthened
  4. Infrastructure to make it easy for people to walk, cycle, and work remotely
  5. Moving towards a circular economy.

It urges the Government to focus over the next 12 months on:

  1. Developing a Buildings and Heat Strategy that should aim to:
    1. accelerate building and retrofitting energy efficiency into all buildings;
    2. provide a pathway to the electrification of heating systems; and
    3. investigate the role of hydrogen in the future heat networks (an established hydrogen industry is supposed to be in place by the mid-2020s if heat is to be decarbonised).
  2. Rolling out a coherent plan for the decarbonisation of transport in the UK, including:
    1. wider subsidised roll-out of EV charging infrastructure;
    2. reducing vehicle emissions prior to banning petrol and diesel powered vehicles; and
    3. supporting the role of hydrogen and bio-methane in fuel solutions.
  3. Increasing the amount of low-carbon power on the UK system through measures such as the roll-out of flexible grid balancing systems and tools to address intermittency risk.
  4. Encouraging and supporting industry moving to low carbon technologies and supply chains through more ambitious incentive regimes and accelerated roll-out of the UK ETS.
  5. Recognising the important role the agricultural and food-supply sectors can play in the resilience and sustainability of food production and supply, flood protection action, increasing biodiversity, and natural carbon storage through tree planting.

Green Recovery Plan

The report was shortly followed by the announcement of the Prime Minister’s green recovery plan to help the UK’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.  The plan pledges massive investment in cleantech, reform of the planning system, a review of public sector land and a package of investment in infrastructure projects.

In addition to the billions of pounds pledged to investment in schools and colleges, courts, parks, high streets and transport, the Prime Minister promised new ways to “deliver government’s public investment projects more strategically and efficiently”.

WM Comment

The COP 26 summit to be chaired by the UK in 2021 will be the UK’s opportunity to show leadership in the global fight against climate change. In the meantime the CCC’s report calls on the Government to be more ambitious, take concrete steps now and with “a new determination”.

Stimulating a green recovery from COVID and delivering Net Zero hand-in-hand requires bold policy and legislation. The National Infrastructure Strategy is due later this year (although the Energy White Paper which was due in 2019 is now unlikely to be published before 2021). Also hotly anticipated is clarity on the promised new model of procurement and delivery of infrastructure projects.  A quicker and more efficient model of infrastructure procurement and delivery – likely to require public-private partnership in some form – is to be welcomed, and we wait to see how it will differ from existing models of public-private partnership and infrastructure contracting.

The CCC’s report together with the green recovery plan are likely to mean new regulation and stimulus for many sectors including cleantech, renewable energy, agriculture, housing, construction, manufacturing, food and drink, resource management and public sector services and infrastructure.

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