The review by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) of the government’s Clean Growth Plan published today and the government’s response provides a good new year insight into areas we can expect to see policies emerge as the government reacts to pressure for more progress on tackling emissions.
The CCC is clearly torn between a desire to applaud the statement of commitment and level of ambition that the government has set out in its Clean Growth Plan, while at the same time needing to highlight the lack of real policies to deliver on that commitment.
The central conclusion of the Committee is that if they give the government a massive benefit of the doubt on its “proposals and intentions” (such as further new nuclear) all coming to pass, there still remains a gap of 10 MTCO2 to meet the UK’s legally binding carbon budgets. The government won’t be too bothered about that level of shortfall as indicated by it’s letter in response to today’s CCC report. Closer reading of the CCC report however suggests that the committee has very little confidence that the “proposals and intentions” set out in the Clean Growth Plan will be achieved, or that those policies with delivery risk will be fully delivered. The real gap therefore, and the one which government is being asked to urgently develop new policies to redress, is over 33 MTCO2 for the fourth Carbon Budget and over 50 MTCO2 for the fifth Carbon Budget.
“there remains a gap to meeting the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, and new policies beyond those in the Clean Growth Strategy are required to close this gap.“
Having pointed out the gaps in our efforts to target carbon emissions, the Committee goes on to highlight the key areas where new policies are needed.
Upgrading the UK’s leaky building stock is first in the Committee’s list and points out the yawning policy vacuum to deliver the trajectory of emissions savings required. There is a call that “policies should be in force by the end of 2019”.Members might be interested in Regen’s current Zero Energy Building Catalyst project as one contribution to find a viable business model for retrofitting housing.
Decarbonising heat remains in the ‘too difficult box’ in the Clean Growth Strategy with an absence of new measures. The Committee gives a particular call for greater deployment of heat pumps in off gas grid areas and says there is an “Immediate priority” to retarget the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) towards heat pumps and biomethane.
3. Power generation
The governments plans to achieve the decarbonisation of UK power generation to below 100gCO2 per kWh by 2030 “places a high reliance on new nuclear build and net imports across interconnectors, both of which have associated risks”. It is interesting to see the Committee calling for more action to “provide a route to market for low-carbon electricity generation, especially lower-cost options such as onshore wind and solar” in case expected contributions from new nuclear plants and overseas generators under-deliver. The mechanism recommended is to use the Contracts for Difference auctions to procure onshore wind and solar – although this was explicitly ruled out by the Treasury in the summer.
The combination of falling costs (the Committee backs the view that “onshore wind is the cheapest form of new-build generation in the UK”) and lack of progress of other options means we could be seeing the start of a move back towards a supportive policy framework for onshore wind and solar.
Some of the key areas are highlighted in this section of a table from the report.
There is a strong pressure in the report for the government to fill in the policy gaps over the next couple of years.The response from the Climate Change Minister, Claire Perry, who has now been promoted to attend Cabinet; was to talk down the ‘emissions gap’ in achieving the carbon budgets but she was clear that BEIS is now focused on turning ‘intentions’ into policy – suggesting we may be seeing a more active policy agenda that over the past couple of years.“I agree that the development and implementation of detailed policy to meet our ambitions is essential, and that is where I and my Ministerial colleagues are focussing our attention.”Regen will this year, be focusing on using our expertise to influence this policy work – we will be letting you know about our initiatives so do get in touch if you have ideas about how we can work with you, our members, to increase our impact.