The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has issued an urgent warning to the UK government, stressing the need for it to act now and address gaps in its measures to meet the fourth and fifth carbon budgets.
Today the independent watchdog has issued its annual progress report to government, within which it raps the government for a failure to bring forward the new policies and measures originally promised in last year’s Clean Growth Strategy.
And the CCC has stressed that while emissions reductions from the power sector have been strong, the government’s failure to bring forward a route to market for the lowest cost low carbon generators such as solar and onshore wind risked penalising consumers.
It has said the government must not only continue with Contracts for Difference auctions beyond Spring 2019, but introduce a route to market for established technologies. Furthermore, these measures must be sufficient enough to reduce emissions intensity of the grid below 100g CO2/kWh by 2030.
In comparison, information provided by Drax Energy Insights places the average UK grid carbon intensity for the previous 12 months at more than double that figure, equivalent to around 230g/kWh.
The lack of a route to market for established renewables like solar has been a particular bone of contention for the renewables industry since the technologies found themselves both locked out of future CfD auction rounds and, in the case of onshore wind, blocked by a Conservative Party manifesto promise restricting further proliferation.
And it is not just in the power sector that the CCC has implored the government to go further. It has also stressed the need for tougher long-term standards on homes, the publication of the now delayed ‘Road to Zero’ transport plan originally scheduled for March and an end to the chopping and changing of low carbon policy which, in the eyes of the committee, has spooked investors.
But principle among the committee’s calls is for urgency, with much of the outstanding policy required to be outlined this year.
“This can’t go on… Act now, climate change will not pause while we consider our options. And act in the consumer interest: pursue the low-cost, low-risk options, like onshore wind…” Lord Deben, chairman of the CCC, writes in a foreword to the report.
“We really have to get on with it”
In a briefing with journalists on Tuesday morning, Lord Deben was more candid.
“We really have to get on with it. We have to have proper action, and that means not just effective regulation and strict enforcement, not just the simple low cost options – why on earth are we not allowing those who want to have onshore wind to have onshore wind, what’s the argument that you don’t allow it? – and we also need an end to the chopping and changing of policy.
“We have to get our focus right and our story right, which is what the Clean Growth Strategy was, and we’ve got it central to our economy. We’ve now got to get on and do it. This report makes it very clear that the government isn’t doing it,” he said.
When pressed on figures released earlier this year that showed investment in UK renewables had tumbled in recent years, Lord Deben said he was not worried about the situation but stressed the need for government to be held account for its actions.
“My belief is the government is in a very clear position. It has to meet its carbon budgets. It statutorily can’t avoid it, and if it is creating the circumstances in which sufficient investment in renewables is coming forward then it will have to find a way of doing that. My job will be to make sure that it does do that.
“I do think there will be more investment all of the time the government shows a continuous and consistent policy, which is why in this report you see we have made it clear that chopping and changing of policy is extremely damaging… we have got to provide a secure and constant and consistent market for that investment to come forward, otherwise other people will offer them something better.”
Richard Black, director at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said the report is “remarkably explicit” in its advice.
“As the Climate Change Act celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, the CCC is effectively recommending the very things that have made the Act such a success – consistent policymaking, which provides certainty to businesses, driving decarbonisation at the lowest possible cost. And really its prescription is very simple: ‘more of the same, and quickly’.”