The UK Climate Change Act is 10 this week. How far have we come in that time, and where could more progress be made? Martin Baxter gives his view.

10 years of the UK Climate Change Act 2008 is certainlyworth celebrating.

In this piece of legislation, we have a world-leadingclimate change governance framework, with UK emissions falling faster thaninitially projected when the Act came into effect. At the same time, the UKeconomy has never been bigger.

Huge gains have been made by the rapid phase-out of coalfrom the UK energy mix and the widespread deployment of renewables. Indeed,the rapid fall in offshore wind costs has been remarkable, supporting thenarrative that high UK environmental standards lead to investment in R&Dand innovation, giving low carbon solutions here in the UK and potential forexports.

We also have a better understanding of UK climate risks,with the national climate adaptation programme and climate change riskassessment becoming well embedded and feeding into decision making. The long-term UK climate projections - which startedwell before the Climate Change Act - provide an excellent basis of embeddingclimate resilience into infrastructure development etc.

And we mustn forget political durability - the ClimateChange Act has continued through Labour, Con/Lib coalition, Conservative majorityand now Conservative minority governments, despite the occasionalobble While there have been somepolicy blunders and things that could (arguable should) have been done better (e.g.CRC league tables, consistency on subsidies for solar, effective banning ofonshore wind, reen dealetc.) it has survived. Indeed, the close integrationof the Industrial Strategy and Clean Growth Strategy is evidence ofmainstreaming the low-carbon agenda into core economic and business activity.

BUT despite all this progress, we aren on track globallyto limit average global temperature change to 2C, never mind the 1.5C that wereally need to deliver to avoid dangerous impacts. And we must ask that if theUK is world-leading, what the hell is the rest of the world doing? We donhave to look far - Ireland emission intensity is rising and Germany andPoland are hooked on coal are prime examples. A evel playing fieldandon-regressionin terms of Brexit future arrangements are fine, but is it toomuch for the EU to sort out backsliding countries in respect of climate changein return? And while wee done well in the first three carbon budgets, the fourthand fifth are iffy - indeed the Government clean growth strategy falls shortof the 57% emissions reduction target by 2030 opening up the possibility oflegal challenge.

As we head towards COP 24 (where wel have an IEMApresence) and UNFCCC discussions on the Paris rulebook and finance lows fromdeveloped to developing nations to support rapid transition to a low carbonfuture and compensation for loss and damage, it feels like there a lack ofmomentum for climate action, despite the increased urgency.

However, the science is clear. Technological solutions areavailable. The social and economic consequences are becoming more pronouncedand profound.

In celebrating 10 years of the Climate Change Act, herehoping that what wee already achieved can be replicated in the next decade, andeveryone else can deliver similar reductions around the world.

Photo of Martin Baxter IEMA Corporate Headshot 2
Martin Baxter FIEMA, CEnv


Martin Baxter is Deputy CEO at the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA). He works in the UK and internationally to accelerate the transition to a sustainable future and support people in the development of sustainability skills and green careers.

Martin has national and international experience in developing and negotiating global and European environmental management standards and developing capacity for effective and widespread implementation. Martin heads the UK delegation to the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) on environmental management and chairs the ISO environmental management systems committee of ~100 countries. He is also vice-chair of the European Standards CEN/CENELEC Strategic Advisory Body on the Environment.

Martin is a Board member of IEMA, the Society for the Environment (SocEnv) and the Broadway Initiative.


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