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Last edited 19 May 2020
Climate Change Act
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:
- The establishment of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) to advise Government and report annually to Parliament.
- The preparation of a Low Carbon Transition Plan to report policies and proposals to Parliament.
- Special measures relating to the introduction of domestic emissions trading schemes.
- Amendments to the Energy Act in relation to renewable transport fuels (biofuels), see Schedule 7 of the Act.
- The power to introduce pilot finance incentive schemes for household waste.
- Powers relating to charges for single use carrier bags.
- Policies in relation to corporate reporting of emissions (see The contribution that reporting of greenhouse gas emissions makes to the UK meeting its climate change objectives).
- A requirement to publish an annual State of the Estate report the efficiency and sustainability of the Government's civil estate.
- The establishment of the Adaptation Sub-Committee (ASC) as to advise the Committee on Climate Change in relation to climate risks.
- A requirement to carry out a Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) every 5 years.
- A requirement to prepare a National Adaptation Programme to address the risks identified in the CCRA (to be reviewed every five years).
- The power to require public authorities and statutory undertakers to report on how they have assessed the risks of climate change, and what they are doing to address those risks.
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.
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).
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 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-climate-targets-request-for-advice-from-the-committee-on-climate-change
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 report suggest that:
- The foundations are in place to implement the policy throughout the UK.
- Policies will have to ramp up significantly for a ‘net-zero’ emissions target to be credible.
- The overall costs of the transition to a net-zero economy are manageable.
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.
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 https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/progress-in-preparing-for-climate-change-2019-progress-report-to-parliament/
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."
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Achieving zero carbon.
- Carbon emissions.
- Carbon plan.
- Civil engineers must report climate-change risk.
- Climate change science.
- Climate Change Levy.
- COP21 Paris 2015.
- CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme.
- Energy Act.
- Emission rates.
- Energy related products regulations.
- Energy targets.
- Environment Bill 2020.
- Environmental policy.
- Environmental Protection Act.
- Gas Goes Green.
- Greenhouse gases.
- Happold lecture on climate change.
- Kyoto protocol.
- National Adaptation Programme.
- Net zero carbon 2050.
- Sustainable Development Goals and the triple bottom line.
- The Carbon Plan: Delivering our low carbon future.
- The Low Carbon Transition Plan: National strategy for climate and energy.
- UK Climate Change Risk Assessment.
- Why all civil engineers should sign up to this pledge.
- Zero carbon homes.
- Zero carbon non-domestic buildings.
 External references
- The Act in full.
- Department of Energy & Climate Change: Climate change act 2008.
- Department of Energy & Climate Change.
- CCC: Building a low-carbon economy.
- Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.
- DEFRA: Climate science and research.
- DEFRA: Adapting to climate change.
- DEFRA: Advice for infrastructure companies.
- The Edge Debate: The Politics of Carbon Emissions Data.
- Cabinet office: State of the Estate 2011. Published in May 2012.
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