Little progress made on UK's net zero pledge

A year after the UK signed its net zero pledge and as the Committee on Climate Change publishes its progress report, a shift of gear is required by government, says Poppy Kettle.

Saturday 27 June marks one year since the signing of the net zero pledge into UK law. This made the UK one of the first countries to commit to a net zero carbon emissions target in law. Theresa May signed up to the target of the Extinction Rebellion protests and the pledge was a testament to public pressure forcing government to take action on the existential reality of the climate emergency. 

A year on from the signing of the pledge, it is clear that progress has been slow, with the only concrete achievements being the consultation on bringing forward the phasing out of petrol and diesel cars from 2040 to 2035, a commitment of £800m for CCS and plans to double the UK’s international climate finance funding from £5.8bn to £11.6bn.

The government will be under an increased amount of pressure to lay out their net zero plans when the Committee on Climate Change publishes their progress report on 25 June 2020 providing a statutory assessment of the UK’s progress in reducing emissions. Following on from their letter to the prime minister in May, the CCC will recommend a green recovery with the government required to provide a response. 

Despite repeated assurances that the net zero target remains a priority, billions of pounds spent to bail out carbon emitting sectors did not come with green conditions. If the government wants a shift in investments towards net zero technology, they need to lead that shift. Meanwhile industry is seeking more regulation that provides clear signals that private investors will follow, as well as support for trials of new green technologies, such as hydrogen fuel and carbon capture and storage that are essential to reach our net zero target.

Whilst the measures taken by the government over the last year have only resulted in a tiny fraction of the change needed to get to net zero by 2050, there is potential that the Covid-19 pandemic can be used as a catalyst for bigger change. 

Shaun Spiers, executive director of Green Alliance, wrote: “There are encouraging signs that the government is beginning to realise that all policy and public spending must be put through a net zero filter. The whole government now needs to shift gear and ensure that ‘build back better’ and ‘green recovery’ are not just slogans, but drive the economic recovery from Covid-19.”

Poppy Kettle is a net zero policy executive at the Environmental Industries Commission. 

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