Last edited 19 Jul 2021

Climate Change Act


[edit] Introduction

The Climate Change Act was introduced in 2008. It was the first time a country had introduced a legally binding framework for tackling climate change.

The Act is very wide-ranging. It sets legally-binding targets, creates new powers, changes the institutional framework, establishes systems to ensure accountability and addresses resilience to climate change.

The key provision is the creation of a legally binding commitment to cut emissions of greenhouse gasses by at least 34% by 2020 and by 80% by 2050 compared with 1990 levels. The Act also requires the Government to publish carbon budgets setting five-yearly caps on greenhouse gas emissions.

Other specific measures include:

There are concerns about the cost of achieving the targets set out by the Act, and whether, if the targets become unachievable, the Act will simply be scrapped. There have already been some calls to repeal the Act, but after a review of all legislation with a view to cutting red tape, the Government appears to have confirmed its commitment to the Climate Change Act.

[edit] Progress

[edit] 2012

There is some suggestion that at present, carbon emissions are not falling fast enough and that this will be exacerbated by continuing population growth in the UK. In 2012, the CCC suggested that the pace of measures to reduce emissions needs to increase fourfold if the Climate Change Act commitments are to be met (see Meeting the Carbon Budgets - 2012 Progress Report to Parliament).

[edit] 2018

In October 2018, the government wrote to the CCC asking for advice about a roadmap to a net zero economy, including how emissions might be reduced and the expected costs and benefits of doing so. Ref

[edit] Net zero target

On 2 May 2019, 10 years after the Climate Change Act became law, the CCC published a report suggesting the UK can end its contribution to global warming by setting a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. Net Zero – The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming was requested by the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments in light of the Paris Agreement and the IPCC’s Special Report in 2018.

The target is referred to as ‘net zero’ as it would be met by some sources of emissions being offset by removal of CO2 from the atmosphere – by growing trees, for example.

The report suggest that:

Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, said: “We can all see that the climate is changing and it needs a serious response. The great news is that it is not only possible for the UK to play its full part – we explain how in our new report – but it can be done within the cost envelope that Parliament has already accepted. The Government should accept the recommendations and set about making the changes needed to deliver them without delay.”

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive at UKGBC said: "Today's report marks a watershed moment in our efforts to tackle climate change. The UK must take responsibility as a global leader to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and the building sector has a crucial role to play in this transition. According to WorldGBC, achieving this will require all new buildings to be net zero carbon by 2030 and all existing ones by 2050 – which will require outstanding levels of energy efficiency alongside zero carbon electricity and heat supplies."


On 12 June 2019 Prime Minister Theresa May announced the UK will ‘eradicate’ its net contribution to climate change by 2050. The statutory instrument to implement this policy was was laid in Parliament to amend the Climate Change Act 2008. For more information see: Net zero carbon 2050.

[edit] 2019 progress report

On 10 July 2019, CCC published a damning assessment of progress in preparing for climate change in England. The report suggested that the priority given to climate adaptation has been eroded over the past ten years and that England is still not prepared for even a 2°C rise in global temperature, let alone more extreme levels of warming. Ref

John Alker, Director of Policy & Places, UKGBC, said: “It is time for the Government to wake up on climate action. Having loudly trumpeted the UK's global leadership credentials in setting a net zero target, today's report has laid bare the scale of the challenge and how far we are currently falling short."

[edit] 2020 progress report

On 9 December 2020, CCC presented its detailed route map for a fully decarbonised nation. The Sixth Carbon Budget (2033-2037) charts the decisive move to zero carbon for the UK. The CCC shows that polluting emissions must fall by almost 80% by 2035, compared to 1990 levels – a big step-up in ambition.

To deliver this, a major investment programme across the country must be delivered, in large measure by the private sector. That investment will also be the key to the UK’s economic recovery in the next decade. In many areas, this gives people real savings, as the nation uses fewer resources and adopts cleaner, more-efficient technologies, like electric cars, to replace their fossil-fuelled predecessors. The CCC finds that these savings substantially reduce the cost of net zero compared with previous assessments: now down to less than 1% of GDP throughout the next 30 years. This is thanks, not only to the falling cost of offshore wind but also a range of new low cost, low-carbon solutions in every sector.

The Sixth Carbon Budget can be met through four key steps:

  1. Take up of low-carbon solutions. People and businesses will choose to adopt low-carbon solutions, as high carbon options are progressively phased out. By the early 2030s all new cars and vans and all boiler replacements in homes and other buildings are low-carbon – largely electric. By 2040 all new trucks are low-carbon. UK industry shifts to using renewable electricity or hydrogen instead of fossil fuels, or captures its carbon emissions, storing them safely under the sea.
  2. Expansion of low-carbon energy supplies. UK electricity production is zero carbon by 2035. Offshore wind becomes the backbone of the whole UK energy system, growing from the Prime Minister’s promised 40GW in 2030 to 100GW or more by 2050. New uses for this clean electricity are found in transport, heating and industry, pushing up electricity demand by a half over the next 15 years, and doubling or even trebling demand by 2050. Low-carbon hydrogen scales-up to be almost as large, in 2050, as electricity production is today. Hydrogen is used as a shipping and transport fuel and in industry, and potentially in some buildings, as a replacement for natural gas for heating.
  3. Reducing demand for carbon-intensive activities. The UK wastes fewer resources and reduces its reliance on high-carbon goods. Buildings lose less energy through a national programme to improve insulation across the UK. Diets change, reducing our consumption of high-carbon meat and dairy products by 20% by 2030, with further reductions in later years. There are fewer car miles travelled and demand for flights grows more slowly. These changes bring striking positive benefits for health and well-being.
  4. Land and greenhouse gas removals. There is a transformation in agriculture and the use of farmland while maintaining the same levels of food per head produced in 2020. By 2035, 460,000 hectares of new mixed woodland are planted to remove CO2 and deliver wider environmental benefits. 260,000 hectares of farmland shifts to producing energy crops. Woodland rises from 13% of UK land in 2020 to 15% by 2035 and 18% by 2050. Peatlands are widely restored and managed sustainably.

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[edit] External references

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