IEMA has today (24 June 2021) called for a “rapid reset” to align UK environmental policy and action with the significant risks facing the country, following publication of a new progress report from the Climate Change Committee (CCC).
Published today, the CCC report warns that the UK has been “too slow” to follow up its climate commitments with action, highlighting how this year has been “marred by uncertainty and delay” to a host of new strategies.
Although acknowledging that the prime minister’s 10-point plan was an “important statement of ambition”, the independent climate advisors said that this has yet to be backed with firm policies, and that the public has not been informed or engaged in the changes that lie ahead.
They said that it’s “absolutely critical” that a new net-zero strategy be published before the COP26 climate summit in November, with clear policy plans, backed fully by the Treasury, and accompanied by a commitment to prepare for “serious climate risks” as the next cycle of adaptation planning begins.
IEMA’s director of policy and external affairs, Martin Baxter, commented: “As the gap between what is needed to adapt and mitigate climate change diverges in terms of policy intervention and delivery, so the UK becomes more vulnerable and the costs of tackling the challenge increase.
“Climate ambition without action is meaningless and the UK’s hard-won credibility as a global climate leader is under threat and magnified in the run-up to COP26. We need a rapid reset to bring policy and action in line with the risks we face.”
Despite UK emissions falling to nearly 50% of their 1990 levels during the 2020 lockdown, the report highlights how the journey to net zero is far from half completed.
It argues that:
- An ambitious Heat and Buildings Strategy, that works for consumers, is urgently needed
- Delayed plans on surface transport, aviation, hydrogen, biomass and food must be delivered
- Plans for the power sector, industrial decarbonisation, the North Sea, peat and energy from waste must be strengthened
- The big cross-cutting challenges of public engagement, fair funding and local delivery must be tackled.
When it comes to adapting to climate change, only five of 34 sectors assessed by the CCC have shown notable progress in the past two years, and no sector is yet scoring highly in lowering its level of risk.
Today’s report also warns that the National Adaptation Programme for England has not developed national preparedness for even a 2ºC rise in global temperatures, let alone higher levels of warming that are possible by the end of the century.
It provides 50 recommendations, including:
- Restore 100% of upland peat by 2045, including through a ban on rotational burning
- Bring forward proposed plans to address overheating risk in homes through Building Regulations
- Make the government’s next round of the adaptation reporting mandatory for all infrastructure sectors
- Build a strong emergency resilience capability for the UK against climate shocks, learning from the COVID-19 response
- Implement a public engagement programme on climate change adaptation.
Nick Blyth, IEMA climate change and energy policy lead, said: “Today’s CCC report demonstrates that the climate emergency needs action at pace. Adaptation and net-zero require strategies to deliver these transitions at the pace required and addressing interdependencies.
“Government must publish a coherent strategy for the UK’s economy to reach net-zero emissions, which should include a clear way forward on developing the ‘green’ skills that will be necessary for its delivery.
“The CCC’s report introduces the concept of a ‘net-zero test’. This is welcome, and could ensure that all government policy, including planning decisions, is compatible with UK climate targets.”