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Home / News and Insights / Blogs / Planning Act 2008 / 882: Government ratchets up climate commitments as NAO is sceptical

Today’s entry reports on the government’s 2030 carbon target and a National Audit Office analysis of performance.

Under the Paris climate agreement, countries are required to set ever more ambitious ‘nationally determined contributions’ to carbon dioxide emissions every five years. When the agreement was ratified five years ago, the UK undertook to cut emissions by 53% of 1990 levels by 2030 (although the Climate Change Act 2008 requires 57% by 2032). Today, it has announced it is increasing that to 68%.

That is an ambitious increase – the EU is considering increasing theirs from 40% to 55%. It is in line with advice given by the Committee on Climate Change (which now seems to be called the Climate Change Committee). The advice suggests that the government increases the target to at least a 68% cut, and the letter is accompanied by an interesting table about how that should be achieved:

  • no coal generation (by 2024, all the other figures are by 2030);
  • 87% of electricity from low carbon sources;
  • 46% of the entire car fleet to be electric vehicles;
  • 97% of new car sales to be electric vehicles;
  • 1.53% of annual heat pump installation for domestic heating;
  • 8.2kg of hydrogen produced per person per year;
  • 0.17 tonnes of CO2 captured per person per year; and
  • 0.07 tonnes of CO2 removed per person per year (ie not captured emissions but active removal).

The figures show that life is going to change significantly over the next ten years, and puts some context to the Ten Point Plan and National Infrastructure Strategy that were published last week.

National Audit Office

Meanwhile, however, the National Audit Office has issued a report analysing the government’s performance so far, and although optimistic, it suggests targets are currently not in line to be met. For example, it notes:

‘BEIS’s latest projections show that the UK’s emissions will be higher than the level set by the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, which are legally binding targets for UK emissions over a five-year period from 2023 to 2027 and 2028 to 2032, respectively … These carbon budgets were set on a trajectory to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050, not to achieve net zero.’

The next carbon budget and the first to reflect net zero is to be set next year. Currently, though, the UK is failing to achieve its pre-net zero carbon budgets and simultaneously making ever-more ambitious plans. In conclusion, the NAO suggests that the government:

‘needs to spearhead a concerted national effort to achieve the ambitious outcome of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To do so, it needs to engage actively and constructively with all those who will need to play a part – across the public sector, with industry and with citizens – to inject the necessary momentum.’

I am sure those of us involved in infrastructure planning will be up for this challenge. However, for it to have any chance of success it needs not only to enter the public consciousness but achieve a general endorsement that this is something that must be achieved for all our futures.

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