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80 days of climate action

The next 80 days will be crucial in the development of domestic and international policy to combat climate change. Between now and December, when the much anticipated international climate talks in Paris draw to a close, discussions about how to tackle the causes and consequences of rising global temperatures will rarely be out of the spotlight.

For the Committee on Climate Change, as independent advisers to Government and Parliament, the autumn period is no less busy.

On the world stage, discussions are building towards Paris and the outcome of attempts to agree a new global deal to tackle climate change to 2030. The UK is playing a central role in those discussions and the Government has been clear about its ambitions. A good result is in everyone’s collective interest.

Although the Committee’s direct role in the international negotiations is limited, we do offer experience and expertise about how to provide transparent evidence to help decision-makers deliver against their climate change objectives. One of the concerns for national leaders is how to ensure commitments made by other countries are honoured and implemented. The UK model of independent monitoring and advice is one option. We can offer practical skills to help those considering a similar approach.

We have a much more significant role when it comes to domestic climate action. On 30 June we published our latest Progress Report to Parliament. In it, we set out the need for clarity about UK climate policy in order to meet the fourth carbon budget in the mid-2020s. The Government’s response is being formulated as I write and will be delivered by 15 October. The Committee will assess that response when it arrives.

At the same time, the Committee is finalising its recommendations about the appropriate level for the fifth carbon budget. That budget covers 2028 to 2032, which is coincidentally the same time period being discussed in Paris. The Committee has a legal duty to deliver its advice before the end of the year; although the Government’s final decision about the level of domestic ambition will take place early next year.

The development of the fifth carbon budget involves a wide range of evidence-gathering and analysis. In considering the trajectory to the Climate Change Act’s 2050 target to reduce emissions by at least 80% on 1990 levels, the Committee must balance the impact on costs to households, the competitiveness of businesses, the government’s fiscal position and other factors, such as the security of energy supply.

To do that, we undertake independent analysis, commission independent research and discuss the key issues with a wide range of stakeholders, including business groups and individual businesses. I would like to thank everyone who has contributed, including the time taken by many people to respond to our call for evidence.

Alongside limiting current and ongoing emissions, it is also important for the UK and the world to adapt to the impacts of climate change that will happen because of historic emissions. The Committee’s experts on adaptation, the Adaptation Sub-Committee, continue their assessment of the climate risks facing our country.

This wide-ranging body of work, due to be published next summer, will help inform the Government’s second climate change risk assessment in 2017. A crucial report, it will set out the Government’s priorities for action to adapt to climate risks.

Before then, we can expect considerable sound and fury as we approach Paris and long after. There will be intense debate and discussion about the appropriate level for our domestic ambition to 2030. The Committee’s role through all of it will be to provide clear, impartial assessment that weighs up competing arguments and evidence within the framework provided by the Climate Change Act.

If you have questions about the cost-effectiveness of alternative courses of action, about the impact on consumer and business bills, about the science of climate change, how best to incorporate the many uncertainties into an appropriate response or any other related issue please do get in touch.

It is our job to provide robust, evidence-based advice to ensure Parliaments and assemblies in London and Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, can select the most appropriate course of action to tackle the threats that climate change brings.

As we ring in 2016 we will have a clearer idea about how the UK, and the world, plan to respond.