Last updated: October 2022
This is a summary of the CCC’s June assessment of the Government’s progress in reducing emissions in line with the UK’s climate targets. The snapshot will be updated periodically, when new data is available and after major Government policy announcements. This resource doesn’t aim to cover all areas in detail, so for a more comprehensive analysis refer to our latest Progress Report. To learn more about how we track progress, take a look at our Monitoring Framework.
1. Overall assessment
Current plans are unlikely to put us on track for Net Zero by 2050
In June, the CCC assessed the Government’s plans for reducing emissions in all sectors of the economy. We found that only 39% of the required emissions savings are backed up by credible plans or policies.
- Credible plans are in place for most of electricity supply and transport
- Significant risks remain in most sectors, particularly buildings, industry, aviation & shipping
- Plans are insufficient for much of the agriculture and land use sector
The Government’s Jet Zero Strategy (July 2022) made no improvement to our previous assessment in June.
2. Current context
The cost of living and energy crisis
Current high fossil fuel prices have reduced the relative cost of decarbonisation, however, affordability is an ever-greater challenge, as households across the UK see their bills and other expenses rising. Action to address the rising cost of living should be aligned with Net Zero.
- In September we published a letter to the new Prime Minister, setting out the positive case for action on energy efficiency, low carbon heat and renewables in the face of the cost of living crisis. We also supported a Citizens Panel, which showed that the public want action on energy efficiency, but require more advice and support.
- The Government has provided a cost of living support package that will help households and businesses with energy bills in the short-term. It has provided some additional support for energy efficiency and launched a limited energy advice scheme. However, support and advice on energy efficiency and reducing energy waste are falling short, while plans for low-carbon heat are progressing slowly.
3. Key indicators of progress
The CCC’s Monitoring Framework identifies over 300 indicators for tracking progress in reducing emissions. Here we have picked out a few key areas of focus. To assess whether the UK is on track to meet climate targets, we compare the historical data1 to the CCC pathway2 and the Government’s ambition3. Despite some bright spots, we are yet to see tangible progress in many key areas.
To meet targets, a fast roll out of low-carbon technology is needed
Low carbon technology is playing a pivotal role in the transition. There are promising signs in some areas:
- Electric vehicles. Uptake of EVs has been well on track in recent years. As of August 2022, 14% of new car sales were battery electric vehicles; this has risen from just 1% in 2018. Continued progress needs to be supported by faster deployment of charging infrastructure, which is falling behind.
- Offshore wind. The Government has made stretching targets to decarbonise electricity supply, with renewables playing a key role. Strong Government policy has allowed offshore wind capacity to grow steadily and costs to reduce significantly. To stay on track, the pipeline of new projects entering construction will need to ramp up significantly over the 2020s.
However, not all sectors are seeing similar progress. A key area of concern is buildings, where emissions have not fallen significantly in over a decade.
- Low carbon heating. A rapid acceleration in heat pump installation in homes and businesses is needed. The Government is relying on an untested delivery mechanism for this, leaning heavily on the private sector to reduce installation costs and ramp up the market. Contingency plans are needed in case this falls short.
- Energy efficiency. Installation rates for building insulation have plummeted over the last decade, and are far below the level they need to be. Insulating homes is important not just for reducing emissions, but also to protect people from the impact of volatile energy prices.
The Government’s plans lean heavily on innovation, and neglect the role of demand-side measures
Innovation is vital in a number of areas, but an over-dependence on yet to be developed technology is risky. The CCC recommends a much higher role for demand-side action in reducing emissions, which is necessary to mitigate the risk of supply-side measures falling short.
- Aviation demand. The Government’s plans for aviation focus on sustainable aviation fuel and zero/low-emission aircrafts. These technologies have potential, but there are significant risks in their delivery. In the near term, managing demand would have a much greater benefit for the climate. This is in line with our recommendation that there should be no net expansion of airport capacity. Fiscal policies are also needed to correct the imbalance between the cost of flying and lower-emission alternatives.
- Engineered removals. These are technologies that are used to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, balancing the emissions remaining that are too challenging to directly decarbonise. As engineered removals are at an early stage of development the CCC’s pathway is conservative as to the contribution they will make. In contrast, the Government’s plans lean more heavily on engineered removals by 2050, to balance the shortfall in ambition in areas like limiting aviation demand.
Demand can be reduced by empowering people to make choices that are good for the climate. The public are increasingly concerned about climate change and supportive of the need to tackle it. However, there is lower awareness of how individuals can best contribute. The Government’s Net Zero Strategy recognised the need for public engagement, but it is unclear how commitments will be implemented for public-facing advice, supporting businesses, increasing awareness and making green choices affordable and easy.
- Reducing car dependency. The Government has not specified a level of ambition for public transport or active travel. While cycling has seen a surge since COVID-19, bus and rail transport is far below pre-pandemic levels. Public transport costs have risen faster than car travel, and there are no clear plans to address this.
- Diet change. Recent years have seen a shift towards lower consumption of high-emitting foods such as beef, but there are no Government plans to support these choices.
There is no coherent strategy for agriculture and land use
The Government is highly reliant on innovation and productivity improvements for decarbonising agriculture, with a lack of plans addressing land release measures such as diet change. This appears highly optimistic and is not yet backed by credible policies. A strategy that brings together how land can deliver for food, nature and climate alongside wider environmental objectives is urgently needed.
- Woodland creation. The sustainable management of woodland is important not only for sequestering carbon, but also for biodiversity and climate resilience. Rates of woodland creation need to more than double to meet the Government’s target of 30kha per year.
- Peatland restoration. There is no long-term national reporting of peat restoration rates, with reporting frameworks differing in each home country. The CCC’s estimates show that the rate of peatland restoration is far below the required level.
4. Next steps for Government
To see all our recommendations to Government, refer to the recommendation tables in our latest Progress Report.
- Response to energy & cost of living crisis. In response to the energy crisis, the Government should use demand-side measures to encourage a more rapid move away from fossil fuels to offer near-term reductions in energy and fuel bills. This brings wider societal benefits, like cleaner air and more comfortable buildings.
- Agriculture and land use strategy. Agriculture and land use urgently need a decarbonisation strategy to match those for other sectors. The government land use framework promised for 2023 must cover the multiple objectives for land, including adapting to climate change, food security, biodiversity, and wider environmental goals.
- Contingency planning. Given the range of delivery risks and the lack of progress seen in many areas to date, the Government – led by BEIS – should develop and begin to implement contingency plans, broadening its approach, to include demand-side policies.
- Co-ordination and delivery. The Government needs to develop an annually updated document, setting out its vision of how the Net Zero Strategy will be delivered, clarifying roles and responsibilities.
1 We use a range of historical data sources from Government, industry, academia and civil society, all of which are documented in our Monitoring Framework. For more UK climate related data and statistics, refer to the Government’s Climate Change Portal.
2 The CCC pathway is our assessment of what would need to happen in order to meet the UK’s climate targets (based on the ‘Balanced Net Zero Pathway’ presented in our Sixth Carbon Budget analysis). There are many possible routes to achieving Net Zero, and this is not a prescriptive path that must be followed exactly, but it provides a good indication of what should be done over the coming years.
3 Government ambition is an umbrella term which includes stated targets, projections, and modelling assumptions – and does not necessarily represent a formal commitment from the Government. It represents our best guess of what the Government intends or expects to happen as the UK decarbonises. For this information we have mostly drawn from the Government’s Net Zero Strategy, and other strategy documents from the UK, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.