Committee on Climate Change says policies required within next year to reform electricity market and home efficiency
The new coalition government must introduce a string of climate policies over the next twelve months or risk Britain missing its legally binding targets to cut carbon emissions, ministers were warned yesterday.
David Kennedy, the chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change, said action was needed in four key areas. He said policies should be brought forward to reform the electricity market, and to make homes more energy efficient. Ministers need to protect efforts to encourage the development of electric cars and introduce measures to bring down the carbon footprint of UK farmers, he added.
“We’ve had a light-touch approach in the UK, we’ve talked a good game but what we’ve seen is emissions haven’t fallen,” Kennedy said. “We need to do something different. What we have to do isn’t news and is becoming very well known.”
Lord Turner, chair of the committee, said the recession has created the illusion that the UK is tackling climate change, but substantial declines in emissions are almost entirely the result of lower economic activity in the last year.
While greenhouse gases fell by 8.6% last year, only a fraction of that was the result of measures to tackle climate change such as renewable energy or making homes more energy efficient.
The second annual progress report from the government’s advisory committee repeated the call it made last year step up efforts to drive down emissions, in order to meet targets to cut greenhouse gases.
Kennedy said some loft and cavity wall insulation was put in last year, while there was a “little bit” of investment in renewables, but efforts needed to be ramped up over the next five to 10 years.
He said continuing to implement green measures at the pace seen in 2009 would mean “we won’t deliver the carbon budgets”.
He said the coalition agreement contained positive pledges to make homes greener, to introduce a floor in the price companies pay for emitting polluting carbon, and emissions performance standards for power stations to drive investment in clean energy.
“These commitments are at the moment good intentions. What we need is to translate these into crunchy policies in power, buildings, transport and agriculture,” he said. “The test of this government will be the policies they put in place over the next year or two. If we’re going to see this step-change actually happen in two to three years, when it needs to happen, we’ve got to have the policies in place in the next year or so.”
Peter Young, the chairman of the Aldersgate Group, said: “We welcome the committee’s headline message that greater urgency is needed to meet carbon budgets. A number of the priorities identified by the committee are also commitments in the coalition agreement, such as electricity market reform and the implementation of a carbon floor price. Prompt action will not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions but will be vital for the economic recovery, boosting growth, jobs and competitiveness.”
Andy Atkins, the head of Friends of the Earth, said: “It’s extremely disturbing that, despite a similar warning from the committee last year, the recent fall in UK emissions is mainly due to the recession. This report is further evidence of the need to build our future prosperity on safe, green foundations.”
Yesterday, the government abolished the Infrastructure Planning Commission, a quango with the power to approve major infrastructure projects set up last year by the previous Labour administration to fast track large projects, such as nuclear power stations and offshore wind farms.
Decentralisation minister Greg Clark said: “New infrastructure is critical to the country’s return to economic growth and we believe we must have a fast track system for major projects – but it must be accountable. The previous system lacked any democratic legitimacy by giving decision making power away to a distant quango.”
Replacing the IPC will be the Major Infrastructure Planning Unit, in which ministers will make the decisions on projects.
Gaynor Hartnell, the chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association welcomed the move but added: “The vast majority of renewable energy projects are smaller than 50MW and therefore will not benefit directly from these reforms. We need rapid and consistent decision making for projects approved by local authorities that strikes the balance between local accountability and strategic national priorities.”