After the excitement around the UK’s adoption of a Net Zero 2050 target for carbon emissions, today’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC) progress report brings us back down to earth. While carbon emissions in the UK fell 2.3% last year, the report highlights major policy gaps in action to address the Climate Emergency. Put simply, while we continue to make progress in reducing emissions from power generation, the UK is not acting fast enough to cut overall carbon emissions by changing the way we use energy in our society. That’s a concern for the Energy Saving Trust, as the leading, impartial organisation helping people to save energy and cut carbon emissions in homes, communities and transport.
Policy gap around energy saving in buildings
For us, the most worrying finding of the report is the ongoing policy gap around energy saving in buildings. This new report highlights that emissions from buildings were higher last year than in 2015, with essentially no progress* in this area. This is a direct result of the lack of policy making in England (we know from other sections of the CCC report that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland made progress in their buildings sector). The CCC notes that “Deployment of energy efficiency measures in buildings are running at less than 20% of the rate under our indicators, having fallen sharply since policy changes in 2012.”
We strongly support the CCC’s calls for the delivery next year of detailed policies to:
- improve energy efficiency for all buildings
- create new build standards to ensure all new homes are ultra-efficient and use low carbon heating from 2025
- ensure that energy saving measures installed in buildings perform as well as expected.
Surface transport emissions
In terms of surface transport – another major area of work for Energy Saving Trust – we’re pleased that to see a small (2%) fall in emissions from transport at UK level, after a growth in carbon emissions from this sector in recent years. We note the CCC’s call to bring forward England’s 2040 target for the phase out of the sale of petrol and diesel cars. For us, the priority must be to continue to invest in the low emission vehicle sector, through the 2020s, regardless of the phase out date. The government is taking action we welcome here: for example, we support yesterday’s announcement around company car tax rules to incentivise low emission cars.
Progress across the UK nations
Energy Saving Trust works extensively across the UK nations. The biggest news is from Wales, where closure of fuel power stations has led to a massive fall in emissions of 13% over the last year. But as well as shutting down high carbon generation, we now need Wales to really embrace the opportunities of low carbon growth. While some cuts in transport and buildings were achieved last year, -1% and -3% respectively, there is scope for additional action. Wales is unique in having a Commissioner for Future Generations who has proposed an ambitious plan for how the country can do more to tackle carbon emissions and deliver growth across buildings, transport and other sectors.
In Scotland, much progress has been made: the CCC notes that “there is now relatively little fossil-fuelled electricity generation operating in Scotland, meaning that the scope for further reductions in power sector emissions is limited.” However, there is a worrying rise in transport emissions in Scotland. Surface transport emissions rose for the fourth consecutive year and have increased by 8% since 2012. Energy Saving Trust supports Scottish Government actions to promote not just the switch to low emissions vehicles but also active travel – walking and cycling, which can deliver the major cuts we need in this area.
In Northern Ireland, emissions fell by 3% last year, but the problem of a lack of government remains: the CCC notes that Northern Ireland has, “not laid out a long-term plan to achieve emission reductions. Despite promising trends in the power sector, Northern Ireland is at risk of falling behind the rest of the UK.”
*emissions from buildings rose 3% in 2018, but – taking cold weather into account – underlying demand can be considered to have fallen by 1%.
- read our response to the Committee on Climate Change Net Zero report
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