The CCC’s new Chief Executive relishes the challenges ahead

A decade on, let’s celebrate what the CCC has achieved and restate the arguments for its creation, writes new Chief Executive, Chris Stark.

I’m delighted to get started as Chief Executive at the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). I regard this as one of the ‘big gigs’ in this field and I couldn’t be more proud to lead the team here.

I join the CCC from the Scottish Government, where I led on energy and climate change policy. Unashamedly, I bring some opinions from that post to this one:  we have an urgent need for ambitious UK-wide climate policies, but there is also a growing (and often poorly understood) role for policy made outside Whitehall. The devolved parliaments and assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have essential competencies that need to be integrated with the UK-wide strategy – and there is real potential to develop better plans at the local authority and city region level. I hope the CCC will be an advocate for a coherent long-term framework to bring all of this together – one which accommodates the relative strengths of the UK nations in reducing emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change. It will not be easy, but the most worthwhile things never are.

Technical rigour

The CCC is foremost an analytical institution and I feel a great responsibility in maintaining our reputation for technical rigour. I also bring an interest in the policy-making process itself, drawing on my previous experience of policy-focused roles in Scotland and Whitehall. I hope my knowledge in this area will bring something new and useful to the CCC.

In my preparation for the new role, Professor Sam Fankhauser’s excellent summary of the achievements of the CCC stood out. Sam is a former member of the Committee and of our Adaptation Sub-Committee. In his report he characterises the first decade of the CCC in two ways: the initial period to establish the CCC’s analytical credibility, and the subsequent maturing of the CCC’s political awareness. It has been a very successful operating model, which has helped maintain a strong consensus for the Climate Change Act and for the CCC itself.

The next ten years

As we enter the next decade of our work, I believe the CCC will need to develop a stronger opinion on ‘delivery’ – how best to actually implement policy commitments. Yes – long-term plans and targets are essential for climate policy, but they mean nothing without adequate resource, political commitment and effective policy-making. We know the next ten years of progress will be tougher than the first, so it follows that we will have to develop an evidence-based opinion on policy implementation: what works best; what has a positive impact on citizen and corporate behaviours; how can we overcome departmental silos and support integrated policy development across the various layers of Government?

It feels like a particularly good time to join the CCC. There seems to be renewed political interest in the UK’s climate leadership and a sense that the CCC’s role in that story has been broadly cemented. Day two of my tenure saw Claire Perry, Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, announce her intention to request our advice on the implications of the Paris Agreement for the UK’s long-term emissions reduction targets – responding to one of our recommendations to the Government back in January.

Paris and beyond

So it’s clear that our work over the next 12-18 months will have teeth and not just on the question of Paris. Our assessment in January of the Clean Growth Strategy highlighted a number of its weaknesses, which we’ll return to in our annual report to Parliament in June. We will also publish a series of new studies to deepen our sectoral knowledge: a bioenergy review, a hydrogen review, a report on UK coasts and climate change, and a major piece of work on land-use and agriculture. These come as we build towards our advice on the Sixth Carbon Budget in 2020.

We’ll continue to assess the facts – and draw our conclusions from the evidence. Our continued success over the next decade will depend on it. I’m really excited to be part of the team.