The Climate Change Committee (CCC), the UK government’s climate advisor announced today the publication of its annual progress reports to Parliament, appraising the country’s progress on the key climate goals of cutting emissions to net zero and adapting to climate risks.

The reports warn that a lack of progress on firm climate policies are causing the country to fall behind on its commitments to meet these challenges, with continued inaction making it increasingly difficult to get back on track.

Lord Deben, Chairman of the Climate Change Committee said:

“We are in the decisive decade for tackling climate change. The Government must get real on delivery. Global Britain has to prove that it can lead a global change in how we treat our planet. Get it right and UK action will echo widely. Continue to be slow and timid and the opportunity will slip from our hands. Between now and COP 26 the world will look for delivery, not promises.”

Over the past several months, the UK has announced a series of ambitious climate-focused commitments, including the launch by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in November of a 10-point plan for a ‘Green Industrial Revolution,’ including investments in renewable energy, clean mobility, and green building initiatives.  In December, the UK committed to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 68% by 2030, setting its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement, and in April this year, the government set a goal to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035.

While applauding these major goals, the CCC stated that they have yet to be backed with firm policies, and that the public has not been informed or engaged regarding the changes that must lie ahead.

On the road to net zero, while some areas are seeing progress, such as initiatives to decarbonize electricity, commitments still need to be made to decarbonise major emitting sectors such as buildings, transport, industry and agriculture. Similarly, in terms of climate adaptation, the CCC notes that only 5 of 34 sectors have shown notable progress in the past two years in preparing for climate risk, with no sector scoring highly in terms of lowering its risk level.

The CCC made a series of recommendations in its reports, including implementing a Net Zero Test to ensure that all Government policy, including planning decisions, is compatible with UK climate targets, and developing and strengthening plans and strategies for sectors including buildings and the power sector. On the climate adaptation front, recommendations include implementing a public engagement programme on climate change adaptation, building a strong emergency resilience capability for the UK against climate shocks, and making Adaptation Reporting mandatory for all infrastructure sectors.

Baroness Brown, Chair of the Adaptation Committee said:

“The UK is leading in diagnosis but lagging in policy and action. This cannot be put off further. We cannot deliver Net Zero without serious action on adaptation. We need action now, followed by a National Adaptation Programme that must be more ambitious; more comprehensive; and better focussed on implementation than its predecessors, to improve national resilience to climate change.”

Click here to view the CCC reports to Parliament.