The United Kingdom is not on track to meet its mid-to-late 2020s targets for decarbonisation, according to the Progress Report published by the Committee on Climate Change, the independent body set up under the 2008 Climate Change Act to monitor emissions reductions. The committee calls for more wind and solar power but we think urgent action is necessary on carbon emitted by the transport sector.

UK carbon budgets are a legal obligation, established by that act of parliament.

But although a reduction of 43 per cent since 1990 puts the country ahead of the 35 per cent decrease required for the 3rd carbon budget, the committee has reiterated earlier warnings that the 4th and 5th carbon budgets will be missed.

The 4th budget requires a 51 per cent reduction between 2023 and 2027 and the 5th budget demands a 57 per cent decrease from 2028 to 2032.

Missing targets, particularly in developed countries, can be a bad signal for global climate momentum, but Britain is not alone: the German government has admitted it will miss its 2020 decarbonisation target.

Decarbonisation policies for specific sectors, which are robust and fully-funded, are not being implemented according to the committee’s progress report. While emissions from power generation have fallen rapidly as coal is replaced by gas – and increasingly by renewable sources – to continue this trajectory the committee calls for support for building more onshore wind and solar capacity, which it projects will be 25 per cent cheaper than gas power by 2020.

However, emissions from transport are drifting up again, now exceeding those from any other UK sector, at 28 per cent. It is our view that transport emissions will also need to drop quickly for the UK to meet overall targets.

Indeed, the government has previously set out targets for cleaner transport focussed on support for electric vehicles and biofuels.

The government needs to act on the committee’s findings to achieve economy-wide emission cuts, in cost-optimal areas, and meet its carbon-budgeting obligations. The risks are further amplified because the typical lead time before introducing transformative policies makes it more difficult to effect rapid changes in the 2020s.

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