Existing UK policies not enough to satisfy Paris Agreement

13th October 2016

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Mira Rosten

Studies released today by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) reveal serious gaps in UK climate change policy that could impact efforts to meet the targets set out in the Paris Agreement.

The CCC has welcomed the government’s commitment to ratifying the global climate deal reached in Paris last year and its intention to set new targets. However, the committee said that, although the UK’s current emissions targets are relatively ambitious, they are not aimed at limiting global temperature to as low a level as in the Agreement, nor do they stretch as far into the future. It also said now was not the time to set new targets, pointing out that existing ones were already stretching and that the priority must be action to meet them.

According to the CCC, gaps in current UK climate policies mean that only half the required reduction in emissions will be achieved, and it called for urgent government action to improve energy efficiency, decarbonise electricity and scale up markets for zero-emission vehicles and heating.

The committee warned that progress on reducing heating and hot water, which account for 40% of UK energy consumption and 20% of its greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions, had stalled. The government needs a credible new strategy and policy framework to eliminate these emissions in line with 2050 targets set out in the Climate Change Act (CCA), it said.

Meeting the UK’s existing targets to reduce GHG emissions would be a positive contribution to global climate action, the committee said, but it urged the government to introduce measures to ensure they were achieved. ‘The most important contribution the government can make now to the Paris Agreement is to publish a robust plan to meet the UK carbon budgets and deliver policies in line with the plan,’ it stated.

The global climate deal, which will enter force on 4 November, aims to limit warming to well below 2°C and to pursue efforts towards a 1.5°C target. It also incorporates a ratchet mechanism of pledges and review, which would require the UK to raise its ambition over time. ‘The five-yearly cycle of pledges and reviews created by the Paris Agreement provides regular opportunities to consider increasing UK ambition,’ the CCC said.

In a separate study, the committee urged the UK to remain within EU mechanisms to control GHG emissions post- Brexit, such as the EU emissions trading system and product and efficiency standards, or set up systems to replicate them. ‘In areas where these are working effectively, the UK should either remain in these schemes (where coordination continues to make sense) or replicate them at UK level,’ the report says.

Collectively EU mechanisms cover 55% of the emissions reduction required in the UK to 2030 if strengthened through the 2020s in line with the bloc’s climate ambition, the CCC said.


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