CCC annual report lauds progress on surface transport but calls for policies to match ambition

Wed 29 June 2022 View all news

The independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) highlights good progress in decarbonising road transport and energy generation in its latest annual report to Parliament but says that, overall, current policies are a long way short of delivering the trajectory that will be required to meet Net Zero by the legal deadline.

The 600-page report - produced on a statutory basis each year by the CCC -  provides a comprehensive overview of the UK Government’s progress in reducing the emissions that are causing climate change. The latest report is accompanied by a new Monitoring Framework which details the CCC’s updated approach to tracking real-world progress through a host of new indicators.

The Committee says that the UK has reached a pivotal point in its journey to Net Zero and that greater emphasis must now be placed on delivery against targets. It says that the UK Government now has a solid Net Zero strategy in place, but that important policy gaps remain with tangible progress lagging badly behind policy ambition. 

The areas of strongest progress are backed and led by well-designed Government policy, the Committee says. The uptake of electric cars, along with the deployment of renewable electricity are highlighted as areas of particular progress. The rise in sales of electric cars is already ahead of CCC and Government growth projections, showing - the Committee report says - that consumers and households are willing to adopt low carbon options when offered a cost-effective, good quality product. However, progress in electrifying commercial vehicles and vans - the next largest (and growing) GHG sources - remains slow.

In response to questioning at the on-line report launch a spokesperson for the Committee said, however, that there has been insufficient focus on the need for measures to reduce the number of road miles travelled. While the Government has indicated the intention to encourage a switch from cars to active travel and public or shared transport, he said there is a need for a specific target for the reduction in car journeys. He added that future plans for road building and associated infrastructure are based on old projections of travel demand and should be updated to reflect anticipated lower traffic levels.

In response to further questioning at the launch event, a spokesperson said that the higher than expected increase in uptake of EVs has accelerated the reduction in revenues the Treasury receives from vehicle and fuel taxation and has increased the urgency of need to consider alternative measures such as road use charging.

The CCC's latest report says that GHG emissions rose 4% in 2021 compared with those in 2020 as the economy began to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic with emissions in surface transport, electricity generation and manufacturing rising, following substantial reductions in 2020. However, 2021 emissions were still 10% below pre-pandemic 2019 levels and 47% below 1990 levels.

In its first comprehensive appraisal of UK’s Net Zero Strategy, the CCC warns that  the current policies will not deliver Net Zero. Credible Government plans exist for over a third of the UK’s required emissions reductions to meet the Sixth Carbon Budget in the mid-2030s; but only with a fair wind will we manage another quarter; and over a third cannot be relied on to deliver the necessary emissions reductions.

CCC Chairman, Lord Deben, said: “The UK is a champion in setting new climate goals, now we must be world-beaters in delivering them. In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, the country is crying out to end its dependence on expensive fossil fuels. I welcome the Government’s restated commitment to Net Zero, but holes must be plugged in its strategy urgently. The window to deliver real progress is short. We are eagle-eyed for the promised action.”

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