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Update on UK’s emissions reduction progress

By Adam Young, Programme Manager, Environment at techUK.

The Climate Change Committee is an independent, statutory body established under the Climate Change Act (2008), with the purpose of advising and reporting on the Government’s progress on tackling climate change. Each year before the end of June they are required to produce a progress report, the latest of which can be found here.

A broad context as set out in the report is as follows:

  • The report praises the Government’s leadership and ambition on climate change, setting out ambitious targets (68% cut in emissions by 2030; 78% by 2035).
  • The Government is also praised for making a success of COP26, an important milestone in global relations on climate change, by reaching agreements on the global phase out of fossil fuels.
  • The progress up to now is significant, with the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions down by 47% compared with 1990 levels (global baseline year).
  • The Committee is critical of the delivery and policy implementation so far, leaving the UK largely off track to achieve the targets set out at COP26.

The Committee makes 6 key messages to Government on how to improve their performance on climate change mitigation:

  1. The Government must address existing policy gaps by implementing necessary frameworks in the next year. The main policy gaps identified are:
  • Land use changes
  • Building energy efficiency

The committee identifies the potential for supplementary frameworks on agriculture, electricity decarbonisation (by 2035) and waste management.

  1. Delivery is lagging policy ambition, according to the Committee. The Government is prompted to make tangible improvements on a wide range of areas. The only area demonstrating progress is the electric vehicle sector, however, there is a lack of leadership on a range of other areas within the Government’s control. This includes:
  • Renewable energy generation
  • Building efficiency
  • Agriculture and land use
  • Other transport (rail, aviation, HGV traffic)
  • Manufacturing and construction emissions
  1. Active management of delivery risks is requested. This message aims to highlight the potential for existing measures not to deliver the reductions as expected. The Committee also highlights the lack of demand side measures in the Government’s Net Zero Strategy (dietary change, curbs to aviation demand). This is considered a latent risk that the Government is not considering. Demand side policies are required.
  2. Align cost of living crisis with Net Zero. The committee notes that the Energy Security Strategy (2022), launched in response to the Ukraine crisis’s impact on energy bills, has focussed almost entirely on supply side measures. There is need for equivalent action on the demand side to limit bills and reliance on fossil fuels. The Committee also notes action on the Boiler Upgrade Scheme including funding for upskilling and sustained deployment, as well as involvement of Local Authorities in a similar role as with the Green Homes Grant.
  3. Cross-cutting enablers are not being delivered as the NSZ promises. The Committee notes a lack of a public engagement strategy on Net Zero despite it being 3 years since Net Zero was legislated for. There is also unclear division of responsibilities between central, devolved and local government in the pursuit of Net Zero targets. Bottlenecks such as the skills gap and planning consent for infrastructure are being reactively approached by Government.
  4. The Committee urges the Government to build on COP26 success. Strengthening the delivery aspects of the UK’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) is strongly advocated for. The remaining time in the UK presidency has great potential for leadership action on reducing emissions, adapting to climate change, and responding to international fuel price increases.

This report echoes similar positions to those taken by techUK, primarily around the lack of demand side solutions to the cost-of-living crisis and the shortcomings of the energy security strategy. Tech has the potential to fix issues of energy efficiency in buildings with smart meters, modern heat pump systems and IoT technology in some cases.

There are also innovative tech solutions which could aid the delivery of several of the areas outlined in message 2. Renewable energy generation and deployment require valuable tech skills, and there are plenty of ready made low-carbon transport solutions which are waiting to be scaled.

techUK supports the findings of this report and affirms that without more active support of the private sector by Government, the transition to a low carbon society is likely to take longer than the timelines set out in the Net Zero strategy.

What is clear from this report is that not there has not been enough focus on how digital technologies can enable net zero. The World Economic Forum says digital tech deployment can reduce global emissions by 20%, and digital tech also delivers other proven benefits such as cost savings, new business models and productivity gains. Therefore, the UK government should set out how it expects heavy emitting sectors to adopt emissions reducing digital tech.

techUK - Committed to Climate Action

techUK provides opportunities for members to showcase climate tech innovation. Members are invited to speak at events, contribute to reports, write blogs, run webinars, and take part in podcasts that support their environmental action. We strive to amplify the sector’s commitment to sustainability. To discuss how we can support you, please visit our Climate Action Hub and click ‘contact us’. 

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